How cars killed hats – and five ways for business owners to protect themselves from a similar fate.

November 11, 2021

Look at any photo or black and white film from the early 20th century, and you’ll notice that almost everyone is wearing a hat or headscarf.

So why did men stop wearing hats?

This is one of those questions you might see on the TV show QI.

We have been wearing hats or some form of head covering for most of our history.

Whilst there will have been cultural, religious or even fashionable reasons for wearing hats, the original and main reason will have been one of necessity.

Unlike other creatures, we have little protection from the elements and hats serve a practical purpose. They protect us from not only the rain and wind but also from the sun. Hence, it’s simply common sense to wear a hat.

1920s millinery, a great business with a great future.

A hundred years ago, millinery (hat-making) would have looked like a great business to start. Hat-wearing was at its peak, the economy was doing well, and you’d have expected a great future ahead of you.

However, we now know that the 1920s was the very peak of hat-wearing.

A combination of factors contributed to the decline, including fashion. However, new technology arguably played a significant part. And this new technology was in entirely separate sectors from hat-makers. So sectors you wouldn’t expect to have been a threat.

Motor cars became increasingly affordable and more common. So as we started to drive, there was less need to be protected from the elements.

Sunglasses started to be mass manufactured at the end of the 1920s. And, with the sun protection they offered, there was less need to wear a hat.

Of course, hat-makers didn’t take the decline in hat wearing lightly. They tried to fight back with advertising campaigns promoting hat wearing. But, as we now know, they were fighting the inevitable.

So the motor car, and sunglasses, in part, killed the hat.

It’s an interesting bit of trivia, but why is it essential that you know this as a business owner?

Well, as a business owner, it’s unlikely that today you’re in hat-making. However, no matter what business you are in or how secure you feel, you should always guard against threats.

I recall reading that Google has a whole department whose entire job is to ‘kill Google’. That way, they hope to anticipate, deal with or own, those threats before they actually ‘kill Google’.

Five ways for business owners to protect themselves:

  • Stay alert.
    • No matter how secure our business is, we need to look for potential threats from all directions. There is no place for complacency.
    • Profitability tends to come from specialism and focus. But being too focused on one particular area can leave you vulnerable. On the other hand, being more diversified can help you weather storms and smooth returns. But be cautious about spreading yourself too thin, becoming distracted and neglecting the core of your business.
  • Be a niche market leader.
    • Become the market leader in your niche. Or create niches to lead. Even in a declining market, niche market leaders can remain highly successful. Remember, people are still wearing hats today, just not anything like as many or as often.
  • Don’t be too emotionally invested in your business.
    • Most of us love our business. It’s almost part of the family, but you need to act and act now if you can see the writing is on the wall for your business. We’ve all seen others be too emotionally involved in their business, pouring good money after bad until it’s too late.
  • Achieve financial independence.
    • Too many people are entirely reliant on their business. You should ensure sufficient assets (savings, investments, pensions, property) are held outside and separate from your business. That way, should the worst happen, you and your family should be fine.

If you’d like our help achieving financial independence, please get in touch with us.