This boater brooch is from the 1980s; though it’s not marked so I cannot attribute it to a known maker it is a well-made and weighty piece, which is often a good sign quality. The main part of the brooch has been detailed giving the effect of the straw of the boater and the ribbon is well enamelled and highlighted with small paste stones.
Originally boaters were worn by midshipmen in the Royal Navy in the nineteenth century. They provided the sailors with protection from the tropical sun; they were not as stiff as the modern boaters of today. Soon the boater was adopted by middle and upper class Victorian English children. There are many sepia photographs of small children posing in stylized sailor outfits and boaters. As time went on the boater became part of their school uniform. I remember wearing one and when I left school decorating it with daises and bright red poppies I still have it collecting dust in the loft, a memento of my school days.
The Museum of Childhood has a doll called ‘Cedric’ and his trunk of clothes, Cedric was made in 1900 by the German manufacturer Simon & Halbig and is sporting a sailor’s outfit and clearly in the trunk is a straw boater.
It wasn’t only children who wore boaters; they became a popular form of summer headwear for gentlemen as a lighter and cooler alternative to the bowler. Today they are a rare sight, replaced by the Panama or the infamous baseball cap. Now they are seen at places like the Henley Regatta held in July.