Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, March 2019, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry

Part 21 – Hats and Their Care


Hats were a big fashion and status statement and requirement for men two centuries ago—not so much today. But if your employer needs a hat cared for, such as a top hat for formal wear, then these tips from the past may help. But I would also suggest the provider or manufacturer be consulted for more up-to-date solutions—or that one first practice the below on an old, discarded hat:

  1. Wipe off any liquid with a cloth or silk handkerchief;
  2. Brush the hat with a soft brush after each use in the direction of a nap to remove dust;
  3. Place a stick inside the hat as soon as it is off (much like a shoe tree), to maintain its shape, especially if it has become wet;
  4. When the hat is almost dry, use the same brush as is used to shine shoes [to smoothen the nap, presumably, of the felt];
  5. Place the hat in a hat box, as air and dust turn hats brown (apparently);
  6. If the nap/fur of the hat sticks together, use a stiff brush, and if not successful, dip a sponge in beer or vinegar and wipe over the hat, and repeat with the stiff brush. The danger of using stiff brushes is that they can tear the felt of which the hat is made.

Presumably, the hat was already black, so black or brown shoe polish applied per step #4 would not create any staining.

One would think #6 would result in a bit of a smell, which could be embarrassing when the principal walked around the finer parts of town.

Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications.

You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (alan AT

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