The 1922 Straw Hat Riot Was One of the Weirdest Crime Sprees in American History

Straw Boater
A straw boater hat lays on the grass on the first day of the Henley Royal Regatta at Henley-on-Thames on June 28, 2006 in Oxfordshire, England.
Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Though I’ve covered a lot in my time at the helm of Slate’s crime blog, I haven’t yet delved into crimes against fashion. I’m not talking about wearing white tube socks with a business suit, although people who do that certainly merit the harshest punishments imaginable. No, I’m here to discuss those times when violent gangs of hoodlums take to the streets in great numbers, viciously attacking all those whose apparel is out of season. I’m talking about the Straw Hat Riot of 1922.

There’s nothing particularly old-fashioned about violent youth gangs tearing through city streets, assaulting hapless passerby—it happened just last weekend in Chicago. But it has been a very long time since those gangs were motivated by an intense dislike of the straw boater hats favored by garden party attendees and members of barbershop quartets. Back in the day before hooded sweatshirts were deemed acceptable boardroom attire and men’s brimmed hats were worn exclusively by swing-dance revivalists and nerds with neckbeards, hat fashion was serious business—and it hewed to a rigorous seasonal etiquette. The most important rule: absolutely no straw hats after September 15. If you ignored that deadline, then your hat was fair game for any urchin who wanted to snatch it off your head and stomp it to pieces.

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