Staple of formal affairs, the top hat was born 220 years ago today ... resulting in crowd hysteria that saw its designer arrested amid women fainting, children crying and dogs barking!
January 5 1797 witnessed unveiling by haberdasher John Hetherington of the distinctive headgear (here celebrated with "What is your signature hat?" quiz, accompanied by 1935 iconic choreography) giving it head start into fame and fashion when he wore prototype on London streets.
So sensational was the design, a sizable crowd formed and he was arrested, given a summons for disturbing public peace and bound over to tune of 50 pounds, after being found guilty of wearing a hat “calculated to frighten timid people”.
The arresting officer told the court: “He 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 Times argued: “Hetherington’s hat points to a significant advance in the transformation of dress. Sooner or later, everyone will accept this headwear. We believe both the court and police made a mistake here.”
The top hat - also known as Topper, Chimney Pot and Stove Pipe - indeed increased in popularity, culminating in Prince Albert's 1850 royal seal of approval before being made further famous by 20th century artists from Fred Astaire to Marlene Dietrich via Charlie Chaplin.