History of the Harrow Boater

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Above: Billing & Edmonds retailed  Harrow Hat

Great Britain is home of many public schools. Including Eton College, Harrow School, Charterhouse, Winchester, Radley and many more.

One of these schools have a long tradition of wearing a special straw hat, the school is Harrow School. The Harrow hat has been a part of the Harrow uniform for centuries. Here is an article dedicated about the Harrow Hat.

Chapter 1. Lets get the name right.

There is a thing going about that the Harrow School hat is a ‘boater’ and frequently called the ‘Harrow boater’. What I want say is that, the harrow hat is not a boater.

Here are the reasons why.

  • The Harrow hat crowns are very low compared to a regular boater’s crown.
  • The brim is 3 times wider than a regular boater
  • The two main reasons really make it a ‘Harrow Hat’ not a ‘Harrow Boater’.
  • How about ‘Harrow Straw’ or ‘Harrow Matelot’? (Matelot is French word for boater. Doesn’t it sound better?)

           Left: Olney Harrow Hat, Right: Olney Boater

The differences are very obvious, when put 1 to 1.

Chapter 2: Who made them?

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Above: Circa 1920s, Harrow Hat Maker

Although the Harrow Hat manufacturing was passed on to Olney Headwear of Luton, Bedfordshire. It is a question who really made them before Olney. Above photo is an anonymous man making the Harrow Hat. Some Harrow Hats were made with a combination of blackened straw and some were made with plain straw. According to a seller of a 1950s Harrow School Boater, the name of Gieves LTD is on the harrow hat but I doubt that Gieves was the maker but it was rather the distributor. One strong manufacturer could be Tress & Co of London, please look under for Tress & Co boaters to draw your own conclusions.

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Left: Black-straw Harrow Hat

I do not think no much black straw boaters survive to this day.

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Above: A.E.Olney Factory in Luton, *Note that the Harrow Hats are in the middle. Circa. 1952

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Above: Tress & Co. Black Straw Boater

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Above: Tress & Co Boater

Chapter 3: Who retailed them?

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Above: Gieves LTD Ad from Old Lyonian Issue of 1962

It clearly states that Gieves LTD, were the offical outfitters for Lower School of John Lyon (John Lyon School) and Harrow. Now Steven Billings & Edmonds are the official outfitters along with Harrow School Outfitters.

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Above: Gieves LTD Harrow Hat, worn by Mark Thatcher

Chapter 4: Variations of hats

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Above: Recent School Monitor Harrow Hat

There are 3 variations of the Harrow Hat. One would be the standard plain blue ribbon Harrow Hat, the second would be the black straw variation and the last would be a School Monitor Harrow Hat.

I believe that only school monitors can wear the Harrow Hat with the School Logo stitched onto the middle of the ribbon band.

One mystery is that if this rule was not applied ONLY to school monitors these years. Here is an old photo of the Phil-athletic club of 1930.

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Above: Harrow School Phil-Athletic Club of 1930

Note that how nearly all members except for two, have the logo on their hats. Maybe back then it was applied to everybody or special teams?

(Sir Terence Rattigan is one of the members above, located right hand end of the second row, the famous Harrow Rattigan Society is named after him.)

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Above: Miniature Harrow Hat

One of the other variation is the Miniature Harrow Hat, made by K.R Snoxell & Sons of Luton. K.R.Snoxell & Sons were the makers of the Luton Civic Boater.

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Above: Gieves LTD Top hat

I thought I might end the article with this cool little item I found ‘sold’ online. It was a Tress & Co. Top hat sold by Gieves LTD. It was also found with a Lord’s Cricket Ground Score Card from 1935! What a historical item. As you may know, Harrow V Eton cricket matches have been happening for centuries and there is a score card for 1935! I suppose a pupil stored the card with his hat (was put in a hat box) and really forgotten, until now.

I wish to collect some Harrow hats, they are cooler than normal boaters.

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