May 06, 2019
Ode to the Oysterman
Long days in the sun, where you go between lowering your head for a snooze and lifting it to scan the horizon—there’s a hat for that. Windswept days on the water, where the elements demand the most of you—there’s a hat for that, too. It’s the same hat. We call it the Oysterman.
Joe Kadison (1923-2010), the man behind Quaker Marine, was obsessed with hats. He collected and designed them for about forty years, tweaking classic styles to perfection and offering one for every situation a worldly citizen might want to get in.
The Oysterman was one of many hats offered by QMS. It was never the brand’s bestseller, but with its extended patent-leather bill, it was recognizable in an instant—especially atop the noble noggin of one Ernest Hemingway, who wore the hat while fishing in Cuba and Key West. He no doubt liked the singular look of it. He may also have realized that when it comes to sun protection, size matters. The average bill length on today’s hats is 3 inches. The Oysterman’s was four and a half.
Kadison discovered his love of hats while serving in the Coast Guard. He didn’t invent the style, per se. Oystermen and commercial fishermen had been wearing hats similar to this one for a few decades at least. During World War II, canvas longbills were issued to sun-scorched U.S. troops in the South Pacific. As those veterans and others came of age, QMS helped the leisure crowd rediscover the style. Kadison swapped in a patent-leather brim that repelled water better than canvas did, and started offering the hat in duck canvas and lightweight khaki twill.
By the nineties, when it had gotten harder to find a decent longbill, the Oysterman (along with all-canvas cousin, the Swordfish) was considered by many a lobsterman and weekend adventurer to be the only option out there.
For the next generation of Quaker Marine, we’ve carefully updated and preserved several of the old headwear offerings. Why this one? It sums up everything QMS is about. It’s designed for sun, wind, and water. The stiff, molded brim material dries quickly. The durable canvas will take a beating. The four-panel crown fits snug to the head.
The Oysterman will age beautifully, so don’t sweat it as salt patterns form on the canvas. Go ahead and let those ventilating metal eyelets tarnish. There’s an ancient mariner in all of us. And a well-loved Oysterman is the hat he’s wearing.