Carry-All Hat

by James Neckermann & Maureen McGuire, 1970

Inventor

  • NAMEJames A, Neckermann and Maureen K. McGuire
  • PATENTUS3496575A
  • DATEFebruary 24, 1970
  • LOCATIONPatented in the USA – inventors residing in Connecticut
  • INVENTION“Carry-All Hat”
  • THEMEConcealing
BIO —

James Neckermann and Maureen McGuire came from Hamden in Connecticut, USA. Their patent does not list their vocations. However, further research reveals that McGuire’s husband was involved in local politics. Both McGuire and Neckermann supported his campaigns, so it is plausible that this might have been how they met. As far as we know, they did not patent any other garments together or separately.

Invention

PROBLEM —

Pockets throughout history, and moreover their absence (even in contemporary women’s fashion), have always held powerful, practical and symbolic value. While women have long been regarded as property, pockets provide a radical way for them to have and carry property. Few women have been satisfied by the pockets they have. The patent archives repeatedly show us that women have always wanted more pockets in more places.

SOLUTION —

Neckermann and McGuire hacked at an ordinary wearable item — a hat. This is no ordinary hat. It has two vertically separated compartments: the lower portion fits snugly over the head, and the upper provides a cavity for carrying small items. It can be decorated in a variety of ways to conceal the top hinge and closure.

“A hat adapted to be worn by female users provided with means for removably storing items for use by the wearer.”
— James Neckermann and Maureen McGuire, inventors
Other hat pockets in the press

POCKETS IN HATS LATEST FAD – “Where is the pocket? This will be the question asked by the woman who goes shopping to provide herself with new autumn millinery this year.”

Arizona Daily Star1911

HAT POCKETS ARE THE LATEST FAD – “Carefully hidden behind flowers and ribbons, hat pockets have become the rage and it is safe to say that there is not a hat of fall vintage that will not be capable of concealing many of the less weighty odds and ends of feminine necessity.”

The Buffalo Enquirer1911

POCKETS IN THEIR HATS – “Amusement was caused in a Paris tea room recently and a smart woman calmly put her hand up to her elaborate trimmed hat and from the midst of the lace and flowery decorating it grew out a small purse and paid her bill. Later she took a handkerchief and a cigarette case from the recesses of her millinery, for she was wearing one of the new hats with pockets which threaten to become popular enough to oust handbags.”

The Times, Ontario1911

NEW HATS HAVE POCKETS – “The outlook is very dark for the pickpocket unless he can acquire sufficient knowledge of hat trimming to know in just what beflowered spot the pocket he wants to rifle is located.”

Rutland Daily Herald, Vermont1896
Speculatively Sewing Neckermann and McGuire's Invention

Much like adding a pulley system or inflatable series of hoops to a skirt, this was the first time the POP team had made a hat with a hidden pocket. As usual we started with a paper model, using old patent printouts to sculpt the shape and scale of a dual-compartment hat. We then moved onto thick grey felt, which was easy to press into shape. A circle of cardboard gave the lid structure.

The inside was covered in gathered and hand-sewn calico. The trickiest part was finding the right proportion between how much was needed to secure the hat on the head and how much could be allocated to the hidden pocket. The inventors suggest a wide range of depths were possible, depending on how big a pocket the wearer wanted (and presumably how much hair or type of hairstyle they were working with).

The hat pocket is accessed via the lid at the top. The inventors suggest concealing the opening device with a “decoration which serves as a knob by which the lid can be opened or closed”. We took reference from the patent image and made a woollen pom pom.

The main questions we were asking throughout the reconstructions were: What items can you carry in a hat pocket? How would you access them? How would it feel carrying things on your head? The inventors suggest “objects such as cosmetics, jewelry, medication and the like”. We tried it with an array of things found in the office and in people’s pockets – such as pens, tissues, a phone, snacks and an inhaler. The hat held all of these things with space to spare. Provided you did not move or nod your head too vigorously, the items did not move around too much. However, the selection of items did have to be light and not too round in shape. We added the optional straps which added further security.

The inventors also suggest that items can be “clipped detachably to the periphery and will not fall out”. We did not need to do this. However, when we remade the hat for the theatre performance “POCKETS of POWER” – first shown at Glastonbury 2023, then at the Being Human Festival in London and the Mayven Festival in Cornwall – it was getting a lot of use and, hence, we added a narrow band of velcro to keep the lid in place.

The fact this is called a “Carry-All Hat” points to the gap in women’s wardrobes for suitable carrying technologies (ie. lack of pockets). Although many used handbags, some simply wanted to keep their hands free for other purposes. Men more easily have used pockets for the items listed above. This hat, although somewhat limited and compromised, nevertheless offered wearers a unique and safe space to carry things everyday items.

More research into Neckermann and McGuire's invention