7 FEBRUARY 1958, Page 16


Sin,—Mr. Cyril Ray should most certainly have con- sulted me about Americans and bowler hats. Mr. Dean Acheson is not now, I believe, a bowler wearer and I don't know that he ever was. He now wears a Homburg which is, in general, of the Eden type, but gives an impression of greater firmness and solidity. One feels that although it is designed to look as if its sides could be pushed in, they are, in fact, very firm. But the most famous American bowler wearer was not Jimmy Walker, but Governor Alfred Emmanuel Smith of New York. 'Al' always wore a brown bowler, the 'brown doiby' of Man- hattan legend. Managers of Governor Smith, in his presidential campaign of 1928, in vain tried to get him to keep this Damon Runyon headgear out of sight in the great open spaces. They felt that (except in Hollywood) it would suggest an indifference to the woes of the farmer. 'Al' refused to doff the equivalent of 'the white plume of Navarre' and was beaten. I don't think he could have won, but the brown derby didn't help.

There are other variants on the standard bowler that Mr. Ray might notice. There is, or was, in my native city of Glasgow, 'the Hampden bowler.' This was worn by supporters of the great amateur soccer team, Queens Park, who owned what was then the largest football ground in the world, Hampden Park. The bourgeois supporters of 'the South Side amateur confederacy,' as the sporting writers put it, wished to be marked off from the proletarian supporters of Celtic and Rangers who filled the terraces wearing 'hooker doons' (anglice cloth caps). Thus marked off, the Queens' supporters could look the rugger snobs in the eye.

A more religio-politically important variant was the curious, shallow pie-dish type worn by the marchers on the 'Orange Walk' (i.e. the Twelfth of July). It was a fair guess that anyone wearing such a couvre-chef was devoted to

. . . the ould cause That gave us our freedom, religion and laws.

It is possible that more than ornament was aimed at, that the Orange bowler was designed as a crash- helmet should a traditional 'ruction' develop.—Yours faithfully, Peterhouse, Cambridge