Saturday, July 20, 2019

Bump caps

 May 1, 1924 Boy's Loyalty Parade, Wichita, Kansas

This film clip was found in a junk store for $10.

The buyer recognized it as something special and gave it to a history museum.

They recognized it as something special and posted it on Youtube.

May 1 was the day the Soviets chose to celebrate "Labor Day". I don't know if that had any bearing on the day chosen for this parade or not.

The factor I find striking is the types of hats that were popular in 1924. Virtually everybody wore hats. Folks spent far more time outside than they do now. There were no (as in zero) TVs or internet or air conditioning. Hats were a necessity unless you wanted to have cataracts or sunburn or skin cancer.

Voluminous berets or mariner's caps with long bills were all the rage in Kansas that year. That seems like a very odd choice for a landlocked state not known for Mediterranean roots.

There was a time when fashion more closely followed function. Clothing shielded the wearer from the environment. Fashion captured the collective knowledge of what worked. Whether Eskimo or Gaucho or Lumberjack...younger people looked to the most successful older people for cues of how to dress and build their dwellings.

In 1924, who was the coolest role-model around? It was the automobile mechanic, the locomotive mechanic and the mill wright at the local factory

What did he wear on his head? He wore a bump-cap.

Why did he wear a bump-cap? Because he was sticking his head beneath car hoods and into production machinery where bolts protruded and hard, unfriendly surfaces abounded. The cap was a voluminous, soft cloth cap that had room for extra padding if needed.

My best guess is that young men wore big-billed "Mariner's caps" because that is the kind of cap worn by the rock-stars of that generation and because they still provided the essential protection to the eyes and tops of ears that were required.


  1. Bump caps are still made today. I've had a number of drilling rigs and supply vessels (used to keep the rigs supplied) where there are heavy confined machinery spaces routinely accessed to work on the equipment. Bump caps are 'de rigueur'. When doing inspections in the machinery areas I would generally don one myself, because a hard had is too darn bulky and you end up banging into everything.


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