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Why did haberdasher John Hetherington’s top hat cause so much controversy in 1797?

January 15th

6a011279419f6128a4012876bd651e970cJanuary 15, 1797 — English haberdasher John Hetherington supposedly caused a riot when he first wore a top hat in public today.

Reportedly, “he appeared on the public highway wearing upon his head what he called a silk hat (which was shiny lustre and calculated to frighten timid people)” and the officers of the Crown stated that “several women fainted at the unusual sight, while children screamed, dogs yelped and a younger son of Cordwainer Thomas was thrown down by the crowd which collected and had his right arm broken.”

He was arraigned before the Lord Mayor on a charge of breach of the peace and inciting a riot, and was required to post a £500 bond.

Words of Wisdom

Hetherington’s hat points to a significant advance in the transformation of dress. Sooner or later, everyone will accept this headwear. We believe that both the court and the police made a mistake here.

— English haberdasher John Hetherington’s top hat literally made front page news in 1797 in "The London Times"