Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Stetson Stratoliner

Back in the day when men wore hats on a regular basis, those hats were often named after really cool things.  That is the case with the Stetson Stratoliner, a hat named after one of the most advanced operational airplanes of its time.
An article about the Stratoliner airplane from Aero Digest, Circa 1940
Boeing's 307 Stratoliner entered into airline service in 1940.  It was immediately dubbed the "Flying Whale" for its chubby dimensions.

The Stratoliner at the airfield
This plane was remarkable, though. It's appearance ushered in a whole new era in avionics. It was the first in-service pressurized airplane and airliner. That's because it's cabin pressurization, air conditioning and heating that enable today's high altitude passenger jet airliners to fly above the weather and turbulence, where thin air and sub-zero temps could potentially kill passengers within minutes if they were unprotected.

The Stratoliner in flight
Only 10 of these remarkable aircraft were built, but they were so solid one was reported to still be carrying passengers in 1986!

The Stratoliner hat:  It's fun having a high-style husband... for a change!
The wide body airliner featured a luxurious 33-passenger cabin.  It was pressurized, air-conditioned and heated.  It had passenger compartments and sleeping berths with windows!  It also featured individual reclining sleeper seats, large seat windows (12 x 16 inches or so), men's and women's lavatories with skylights and a galley with a skylight.

An artist's conception of the Stratoliner interior
Howard Hughes had a special model built just for himself.  It featured more powerful engines and extra fuel tanks for a planned around-the-world flight.  This wonderful trip was cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II.

After the War, Hughes' plane was outfitted with a luxury interior, including a bedroom - and earned the nickname "The Flying Penthouse".

Boeing's Stratoliner factory
According to one website, it cost $12,000 for passage on one of these planes, and that was merely a small flight to the middle of the country from the Coast.  That $12,000 is the equivalent of a whopping hundred thousand dollars in today's money.

The Stratoliner men's hat was named after this amazing airplane.  It was produced by Stetson in the 1940s.   It had a classic style, and a wider brim than the popular urban fedora.  It also featured a lighter, quality fur felt construction made from a thinner, softer felt.  

The Stetson company decided to name the new hat after the Boeing Stratoliner, taking advantage of the press from Howard Hughes' purchase of one of the luxury planes and his association with TWA, the airline that flew the Stratoliners.      

A Vintage Stratoliner hatbox
In 2011, Stetson re-introduced the Stetson Hat using the same hat blocks used for the original.  They immediately discovered there was a lot of enthusiasm for this "retro" hat and that there were many collectors that were interested in it.

Enter my brother, the hat aficionado!

Did you know a real men's fedora - even a Stetson Stratoliner, comes without a 'bash' in it?  Here it is straight from the factory:

The Modern Stetson Stratoliner straight from the factory
 You have to steam it and shape it yourself:
The Stratoliner after shaping
And then you get a dashing man to model it for you.  That's an important part of the equation!

My handsome brother wearing his new Stetson Stratoliner
Hey (to quote the earlier ad), a High-Style Brother... for a change?  Naw! Not at all. He's always a class act in my book! 

Thanks for sharing the history of this very cool hat, Jay!

Thanks to the Fedora Lounge Website, and HistoryLink.org too!

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