Straw Hat Day was an unofficial holiday across the nation each May signaling the start of spring. This was the day when men would switch from wearing their felt hats to straw hats in anticipation of the warmer weather.
A May 1923 article in The News (Frederick) marveled at the variety of hats then available for men at the time:
“Hats will be in natural color, or dyed, or both: there’s one style with a dainty red braid woven into the whole business at frequent intervals. They will be stiff or flexible, or both: they have thick edges or thin edges, wide brims, narrow brims, high crowns, low crowns, fancy scallops around the edges like an apple pie, or a sort of rolled effect at the edge.”
And a May 1924 ad for B. Rosenour & Sons, also in Frederick, described the variety of hats offered:
“There are sprightly sailors, stately Leghorns, impressive Bangkoks and affluent Panama to suit any taste.”
In case you were wondering, wearing a straw hat out of season may have been a fashion offense, but not one that should be handled by the public, per a 1931 Morning Herald (Hagerstown) article:
“There is really no official straw hat day as far as the law is concerned. There is a tradition that anyone who finds a straw being worn by some citizen before May 15 or after September 15 may promptly smash it and be within the law, but such is not the case. A New York magistrate recently ruled there is, strictly speaking, no straw hat season.”
The day seems to have fallen out of favor by the 60s and 70s, when men no longer wore hats on a daily basis.
If you’re feeling adventurous, wear a straw hat on May 15 in honor of Straw Hat Day of yesteryear, but don’t put it on too early … or else!
Sources: Morning Herald, May 15, 1931; The News, May 15, 1923, May 14, 1924 and May 4, 1972