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Hatless Jack: The President, the Fedora, and the History of American Style

Hatless Jack: The President, the Fedora, and the History of American Style

Boaters, derbies, fedoras—until just a generation or two ago, a man’s social status, if not his very masculinity, was defined by his hat. For centuries, men owned hats for all seasons and occasions. But in the 1960s, the male hat became obsolete. Just as women shed their white gloves for the sexual revolution, men cast aside centuries of tradition and stopped wearing hats.
The hat’s demise has over time been credited to President Kennedy, or “Hatless Jack,” due to his reluctance to be photographed wearing a hat for fear it made him look old. But one president alone did not make or break a trend. In this quirky social history, Neil Steinberg traces the evolution of the hat over centuries, as a costly but necessary investment, as a symbol of social status, and masculinity, and as a global industry.

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66 Prince Street Bristol BS1

66 Prince Street Bristol BS1

66 Prince Street Bristol 1983.

In 1700, Bristol was the third richest city and the second largest port in England, with a population of 25,000. It was still basically a medieval city, but by 1700 the need for more houses led to a development in the Marsh area and so Queen Square and Prince Street came to be laid out.

The Corporation however had decided to take great pains to control the speculative builders who rushed in to make their fortunes, and insisted on high standards of planning and craftsmanship. The leases for the new Prince Street, named in honour of Prince George of Denmark, stipulated that, "all houses designed to be built on the said ground intended to be strong, lasting, uniform and regular."

It was in 1725 that John Strahan of Bath advertised his services as an architect to the citizens of Bristol and he obtained the patronage of some wealthy and influential merchants who wanted new houses to match their new status. John Hobbs was one such rich timber merchant who commissioned the architect to build him a pair of houses with freestone fronts. Nos. 68 and 70 are these twin houses and with No.66 make the only surviving group to remain in Prince Street.

It is the middle house, No. 68, which is now the Shakespeare. The pediment that crosses the central feature of the house has a baroque armorial cartouche carved with two falcons or ‘hobbies’ (a punning reference to Hobbs) clearly visible to remind us of its origin as a private house.

The Tavern is a Grade 2 listed building in a prominent position in the Queen Square conservation area and has been so thoroughly overhauled recently by Courages that it is now possibly Bristol’s finest public house. The most notable feature in the interior and hall is the fine curved mahogany staircase which was an integral element of the original eighteenth century merchant’s house. It faces the entrance door and is a marvellous introduction to the quality of this inn.

The fittings and fixtures also reflect the period and the close associations of the house with the docks. The house in fact extends back towards the Narrow Quay and a pleasant drinking area has been laid out from which you can still enjoy the excitement of the ships and the docks activity which the original merchants would have found so stimulating as the source of their wealth. All merchants wanted to live near their business and at the same time enjoy their new splendid houses.

The eighteenth century warehouse attached to No. 70 remains and the patio for the Tavern was built on the area occupied by Hobbs’ original warehouse.

The lounge bar has the deal floorboards and panelling of the merchant’s house and the decoration, though new, is a constant reminder of the inn’s association with the sea; signboards from ship’s chandlers, binnacle makers and suppliers hang on the walls along with maps of the Bristol Channel area.

There is no record of when the house ceased to be a private house and became an inn, but by 1775 Sketchley was able to list a Shakespeare Tavern kept by one John Farrall, a victualler and boatkeeper, at No. 22 Prince Street.

The numbering of the houses has altered over the years and by 1861 the inn was No. 26. Today it is No. 68. In the same way the title Hotel, Inn, Tavern or Public House was used indiscriminately in deeds to describe the inn.

In the past there was also no prejudice against women landlords. In 1793 the licence was held by Hannah Hopkins but when, in 1849 Robert Ludlam took over from Ann Langford she was unable to sign her name and just made her mark.

It was Hannah Hopkins’ husband John who was a freemason and the Shakespeare had been used as a meeting place for the Beaufort Lodge since 1784. The Masons’ annals say, "it used to be largely frequented by captains and officers of merchant ships. It was kept very select and no common sailor or dock labourer would have presumed to enter without instructions from his superiors."

Indeed, Prince Street itself was the centre of fashion in the eighteenth century with prosperous merchants buying most of its attractive houses. The Assembly Rooms were erected in 1755 and the city’s elite flocked to the concerts and balls which were held in this new social centre.

There was a Master of Ceremonies to see that the tone of the Rooms was always high and laid down that, "ladies shall not be admitted in hats" and "no children in frocks admitted to dance minuets."

By 1812, the Assembly Rooms themselves lost cientele to the New Assembly Rooms in Clifton and the building was demolished in 1909. Today the Unicorn Hotel stands on the site.

The three remaining buildings form a good unit. No. 66 was originally built by William Halfpenny for the merchant Noblett Ruddock, but by 1775 we find that he had moved to Montague Street. No. 70 also soon came down in the world as a common lodging house and warehouse. Bristol Corporation has restored it by converting it into flats and this is

UK - Somerset - Bath - Beau Nash House

UK - Somerset - Bath - Beau Nash House

Next to the Theatre Royal, where he once lived and later became a hub of the thriving Bath theatre scene in the 1800's, Beau Nash died in this building, now Lord Baggot's Dining Room, in 1761 tended by his mistress Juliana Papjoy. He lived here for the last 16 years of his life, surviving on a small pension of ?10 a month.

Beau Nash, born Richard Nash, was a celebrated dandy and leader of fashion in 18th century Britain. In 1704 he became Master of Ceremonies of Bath, and he retained that position until his death, playing played a leading role in it the most fashionable resort in England. He would meet new arrivals to the city and judge whether they were suitable to join the select "Company' of 500 to 600 people at the centre of Bath society, match ladies with appropriate dancing partners at each ball, pay the musicians at such events, broker marriages, escort unaccompanied wives and regulate gambling (by restraining compulsive gamblers or warning players against risky games or card-sharps).

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