24
Oct
2022
0
hat box gift use

A History of the Hat Box

What’s in a hat box? Sometimes, a hat. However, for many of us in the business of gift-giving, we recognise that hat boxes have been popularised as a packaging solution. Well-suited for elaborate floral arrangements, balloon bouquets, and teddy bear gifting, a hat box provides a versatile canvas for creativity. This iteration of hat box usage has taken a sharp turn from the history of the hat box, whose function has been both practically simple and socially complex.

What’s in a hat?

The choice to wear a hat nowadays is a completely optional one. Some wear them for sun protection and some as a means of self-expression. However, hat-wearing experienced its heyday in the Victorian age (1837-1901), where it was essentially compulsory to wear one.

The purpose of a hat in this period was at first functional. In a period before mainstream car use, hats were essential for protecting the wearer. At this time, commuting involved much more exposure to the elements. As such, a hat was essential to protect its wearer from sunburn and keep perspiration from falling into the eyes. However, this period also saw the wealth and power of the British Empire grow in tandem with the rise of the industrial revolution. With this, English society saw the emergence of a middle class. This social restructuring saw the function of a hat evolve from a protective covering to that of an acute signifier of status and wealth. 

victorian women in hats

Hats, travel, and status

Hats have a long history of being signifiers of status or class and this has never been truer than in Victorian England. Though hats were universally worn outdoors, the type of hat worn said a lot about its wearer. For a woman of this era, her hat was her most important accessory. The size, shape, and decoration of her hat said a great deal about her class and authority. As such, there came a demand for increasingly ornate hats of great proportions. Hats were made from expensive and rare materials like lace, silk ribbons, bird feathers, and even stuffed birds. The traditional cardboard hat box evolved accordingly. 

Notably, in this period, international travel became easier for the elite, for whom ‘vacation’ travel was emerging as a new concept. The Grand Tour around Europe, for example, became a popular rite of passage for wealthy young adults finishing their schooling. This meant that even though hats were worn for travelling, more valuable hats for other, more special occasions needed to be packed as luggage. 

victorian man top hat

Enter the ‘hat tin’. Milliners developed this metallic hat box as a more durable travel solution than their cardboard counterparts. These tins were significantly better suited to protecting the value of and intricate ornamentation that often adorned elaborate hats. 

top hat hat box

In this period of the history of the hat box, we can also see the evolution of the top hat carry case. This was essentially a leather hat box in the shape of an upside-down top hat. Complete with a leather handle, these hat boxes were essential in protecting the fine silk that covered these hats. This version of a hat box was very popular because at the time, the silk top hat was essential to men of the upper echelons of Victorian society. 

Modern Hat Boxes

Eventually, large and elaborate hats came to fall out of favour, associated with Victorian ‘stuffiness’. Despite this, hat boxes continue to be an item we tend to attach a sense of nostalgia or romance to. They hark back to a time where people tipped their hat in greeting or removed it as a show of respect. It is perhaps for this reason that we use hat boxes to present gifts with an increased sense of occasion. 

At Koch & Co., we stock an expansive range of hat boxes in a number of colours. Predominantly cylindrical and made from cardboard, we also stock rectangular, square, and heart-shaped hat boxes. Our range also includes hat boxes with window lids and hat boxes with transparent PVC walls.  For safe transportation of delicate goods like glass vases, we also stock polystyrene wreaths and cardboard inserts. These products are specifically designed to fit snugly into our hat box range.


After having read about the history of the hat box, read our other Koch Blogs about hat box uses: What Makes A Gift Hamper Great? and Fancy Gift Wrapping Ideas.

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