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First top hat creates an enormous stir

In January 1797, a certain Hetherington appeared in the streets of London. The hat maker walked along the thoroughfare wearing a top hat in the shape of a stovepipe. Within a short time, a large crowd had gathered around him. There was such chaos that the 'officer of the law' grabbed Hetherington by the collar and summonsed him before the court. He was accused of disturbing public order.

The officer, who dealt with the scandal, described the offence as follows: "Hetherington had such a tall and shiny construction on his head that it must have terrified nervous people. The sight of this construction was so overstated that various women fainted, children began to cry and dogs started to bark. One child broke his arm among all the jostling."

The hat maker relied in his defence on the right of every Englishman to place what he wanted on his head.

The London newspaper, The Times, wrote the following day: "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."

The Times was right. Hat manufacturers in England made a substantial amount of money from this 'extravagant construction'.

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