Not much of a title, is it? Couldn’t think up a better one so I’m going with the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin variety. A blog post, from me to you, about three German hats. Well, one turned out to be Austrian. I’ll get to that.
I have lived in Germany twice, with a brief stint in North Yorkshire in-between. In any German posting, it seems that a big event on the annual calendar is the Anglo-German car boot sale. Whatever a persons nationality, we seem to be united in loving a rummage and a bargain.
Personally, I liked seeing what one person called trash and another treasure. The Germans were mad for British high street clothes. The Brits snapped up traditional beer steins and curtains. That last one isn’t as random as it sounds, windows in German houses can be huge and oddly shaped. Dressing them can be a tricky and expensive business.
Me? I bought some traditional German hats. Paid about seven euro for the trio. Had no idea what I was buying, just liked them. I called them hiking hats and they represented the rural Germany we’d loved exploring. The Harz Mountains, the woodlands, the ski resorts of the Sauerland. Took them home, steamed them, hung them up. Didn’t think too much more about them.
Until I took them down to dust and had a sharp pang of nostalgia for our Germany days. Given that anything is more interesting than housework, thought I’d do a bit of research into these hats. Turned out the dusting didn’t get finished but I did get inspired to add another place to visit to ‘The List’, got lost in the heritage of a German hat maker and found out a whole lot about how they should be traditionally dressed. You never get that kind of reward out of housework, do you?
The Traditional One
If your looking for a truly traditional German hat, go for a Mayser. Leonhard Mayser set up shop hat-making in Ulm, Germany in 1800. He soon made a name for himself and the Mayser hat became a symbol of social standing. The one man workshop grew into a vast and diverse business that was passed down through generations of Mayser sons. And although they diversified into industry and politics, they never stopped making hats.
The Mayser name and business survived several conflicts, economic turbulence and has kept its place in the fickle world of fashion. In the 1960’s, the company was producing about 3.5 million hats a year. Possibly including this one; by the shape and the label, I think this hat dates to the late 60’s/ early 70’s. I wonder where it’s been before it found me?
The good news is that Mayser is still going strong, still making hats. Two collections are released each year, and there are some beauties in there. The slightly sad news is that Mayser might be a German heritage brand but it is no longer Germany based . In 2011 the entire production process relocated to Slovakia.
The Austrian One
My favourite. It sports a badge celebrating ‘ 15 Years of Loyal Guest in Ramsau Am Dachstein’. I’ve no idea on the origins of this hat, although it seems to be of superb quality. The label inside declares it to be echt steirischer londenhut or A Real Styrian Hat, so it seems the wearer had a real love for their time in Austria. Was this a badge of honour issued to particularly loyal visitors?
If so, hats off to them. Fifteen years is a long time to keep going back to one place. I’ve emailed the tourist office in Ramsau Am Dachstein in Austria to see if they can shed any light. I’ll edit this if they get back to me.
This is the hat that as inspired me to add Ramsau to the list of places we need to visit. It’s a beautiful place with plenty of attractions including a skywalk, an ice palace carved out of a glacier and miles of beautiful hiking routes. Maybe this hat and it’s owner had good reason for visiting for fifteen years. I wonder how many times I’d have to go before they give me a badge?
The Other One
Ah, not much to say about this one. It’s a lovely hat in all it’s green glory, and it came with it’s own beautiful set of feathers, but doesn’t have any branding or labels to indicate it’s origins.
I suspect it might be a mass made, inexpensive piece. The kind you’d pick up for in high street shops in Germany around festival times. But I like it for that. It’s a modern hat of traditional Germany, and sits nicely with the other two. It’s also the only one of the three that actually fits me. Would I wear it though? Maybe!
With a little help from Google and a lovely German friend, I discovered that these hats are known as Tyrolean or Alpine hats. Although Tyrolean in tradition, the style was popularized by our own Edward VIII who, after abdicating, enjoyed time in Austria. The traditional decoration is a corded hatband and a brush. To be truly authentic, the brush should be made of the beard of a chamois goat and combined with feathers.
Chamois goat beards are a bit thin on the ground here in Wiltshire, but I did find some Kestrel feathers when walking out in Wilton. I also had some Pheasant feather I found when we lived in Scotland. I can’t think of a better way to use them than to dressing these hats. It’s nice to tie together finds from the places I’ve lived. I’ll probably live in a few more places yet, but where ever I hang my hats, that’s my home.
If you have things in your home from your travels, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.