The Top Hat, the Riot, and the £500 Fine

On this day 220 years ago, 15 January 1797, something lifechanging happened.

The world of fashion changed on that day. Top hats were created. Yes, that right.

The fashion icon of the upperclass and gentry in the Edwardian and Victorian eras, and a must have accessory for anyone who’s into Steampunk style, was created.

But not all went smoothly for the creator John Hetherington, as his newly designed head attire caused a riot. The condensed version of story is as follows …

The first Top Hat was worn by haberdasher John Hetherington on 15 January 1797, in London, England. When Heatherington stepped from his shop at 11am wearing his unusual headgear, a crowd quickly gathered to stare. The gathering soon turned into a crowd crush as people pushed and shoved against each other, resulting in a broken arm for one person there. As a result, Hetherington was summoned to appear in court before the Lord Mayor and fined £500 for breaching the peace. He was also charged with appearing “on the public highway wearing a tall structure of shining lustre and calculated to terrify people, frighten horses and disturb the balance of society”. However, within a month, he was overwhelmed with orders for the new headwear.

Trove has many articles detailing the “origin of the Top Hat”. Here’s a few of the longer versions of the story if you wish to check them out.
How the First Silk Hat Startled London, Launceston Examiner, 17 February 1899
The First Silk Hat, Evening News Sydney, 25 February 1899
The First Top Hat, Canberra Times, 10 June 1927

Personally I’m totally thankful to John Hetherington, as I’m a lover of the Victorian era style, and really LOVE top hats, so much so that I wore one at my wedding!

do you love my white top hat?

do you love my white top hat?



5 Responses to “The Top Hat, the Riot, and the £500 Fine”

  1. Crissouli says:

    You wore it well, Alona…

  2. Pauleen says:

    As soon as I saw the title I knew there’d be a wedding photo 😉

    • Alona says:

      Hehe … actually I wasn’t going to. I spent ages looking though hundreds of old family photos looking for someone in a top hat and only found one, but it was really dark and from a distance, so they didn’t show up well. So my pic ended up in the blog instead.

  3. GenieJen says:

    Wow! That looks amazing

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