I’ve been obsessed with something for a while (20 years or more). As a fifties car enthusiast, I’m always interested in things from that era. Something missing from the new retro explosion is the button beanie. You see, from the nineteen twenties through the early nineteen sixties, auto mechanics, auto factory workers, bikers and wise guys made these beanies from felt fedoras and put buttons, patches and adornments on them. Many times they would cut the brim in a razor edge pattern or a crown pattern. Sometimes they would be painted or cut. Pins like labor union pins, pep pins and beer bottle caps were stuck to the beanies to give the wearer his own personal touch. Sometimes, though, they were just plain and functioned to keep the wearer’s hair from getting greasy or stuck in some tool. Then kids, trying to copy the hot-rod guy teenagers and cool guy mechanics at the gas stations, started making button beanies too.
Button beanies have shown up in comics (Jughead in the Archie comics is the main person that I think of), in movies (young punks in Jimmy Cagney movies and Jeff Goldblum as a young freak in “Death Wish”), and in art and illustration from the mid 20th century. I guess that I have to mention Goober from the Andy Griffith show, even though he wasn’t really a cool guy – at least he was the town mechanic. Ha Ha.
Anyway, to me, it’s a cool, retro, “wise-guy” look – if you’re brave enough to sport one. You can get yours’ in the merch section with a RHH patch lovingly sewn on.
Here’s some examples I found on the internet. The Kid with the hot dog is cool. I know that’s James Cagney on the right, but I’m not sure who the cool and dirty delinquent is.
Jughead, and ad for pre-made button beanies, and me, still a kid and wanna-be delinquent.
The old photo below is some kind of factory worker from the 1930’s or 40’s. They were also called “Whoopee Caps”.
Here’s “Joe Delinquent”….pretty cool.
Here’s one I bought off of ebay. It’s from the 1930’s. I love this thing.
He’s telling the cops what to do. Ha Ha.
Here’s Jeff Goldblum in “Death Wish” as “Freak number two”.