What is the difference between a “boater” and a “skimmer” hat for men?
Boater straw hat, also popularly known as Sailor, Sennit, and Skimmer: A stiff straw hat, easily distinguished by its flat top oval crown, rigid flat brim, and originally worn for boating in the 1870’s.
Straw is the stalk of any grain plant, for example wheat, rye, or oats. Although only certain types of summer hats are actually created from straw, and straw hat terminology differs somewhat within the hat trade, the term straws are generally used to describe a variety of summer hats including those actually made of straw, hats made from other natural vegetable fibers, and hats synthetically manufactured to simulate straw.
Some well-known straw hat styles, in particular the Boater and Optimo, have no counterpart in felt.
Edouard Manet, French (1874) Boating
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the straw boater became synonymous with summer leisure. In the often oppressive Industrial Revolution, leisure time for many was hard to come by. Owning and wearing a straw boater (a.k.a. skimmer, sennit or sailor straw) was the wearer’s badge that life had become more than simply hard work. Manet, as well as other artists of the time, use the boater as a symbol of the good life and the emergence of “leisure” as a right and privilege.
In the mid 1930’s Yachting patrons accounted for half or more of straw-hat sales, but by the early 1950’s the Boater straw hat had gained universal popularity, and was no longer exclusive to Yachting. Boater straws are still considered one of the dressiest of straw hats.