Australia: The Meaning of Throwing Down Your Hat

“Hundreds of farmers have protested in Ashgrove against coal seam gas development in Queensland. The farmers chanted “Lock the Gate” as they threw their hats on the ground outside the campaign office of LNP Leader Campbell Newman.”

Yes, that was the news on March 12, 2012; you can read about it in the Courier Mail.

There is even video footage of hats being thrown down in protest…

Throw your hat downIf you want to see the actual video, go ahead and click on the picture of all those hats on the ground.

But what does throwing your hat down mean here in Australia?

Well, in mediaeval times, a knight throwing down the gauntlet was a challenge to a fight, picking up the gauntlet meant accepting that challenge.

Australia didn’t have mediaeval times.

In a more modern UK, people about to engage in a fight might take off their jackets and hand them to the person standing next to them to signify to their opponent they are ready to fight.

We don’t much wear jackets here in Australia.

So for Aussies, throwing your hat down is the traditional way to challenge for a fight.

But what sort of hat would that be then?

I can tell you, it’s not a bowler hat as one might have worn in England. Nor would it be a cap more commonly worn up north. It isn’t quite the same as a cowboy hat that might be worn in the USA either. The iconic Australian hat is…

The Akubra Hat

In 1874 Benjamin Dunkerley arrived in Tasmania from England and decided to make hats. He was pretty good at it, and his hats became very popular. In 1912 he started using the trade name “Akubra”.

The hats look like they are made of felt but they are actually made out of fur; the ‘under fur’ of animals, not the long, coarse hair commonly called fur. The fur used is mainly a mixture from beavers, hares and rabbits. Some Akubra hats though, can be made of straw.

There are around 70 different styles of Akubra hats, but do I own one?

You betcha!

Here I am in the middle of the outback, standing in front of Standley Chasm with Elizabeth, who isn’t wearing an Akubra hat…

My Akubra Hat

I am though.

So what style is my hat? I’ve never looked before, so let’s find out together. I’m now looking inside the rim of my hat to see what it’s called. Ah, here it is, my hat is called a…


Oh dear, not very exciting, is it? Of all the Akubra hats Mrs BobinOz could have bought, she buys me a Plainsman? Is she telling me something?

Probably the most exciting Akubra hat and maybe the most famous is called The Croc. It features a genuine crocodile band with crocodile teeth and satin lining.

This guy wore one, and I can’t believe it’s taken me nearly 4 years to get this video clip on my website. I’ve misquoted the line (example, “Call that a mushroom? This is a mushroom!“) many times on this blog, but having just watched the video clip, I realise I’ve even been misquoting it wrong.

I always thought the original line was “Call that a knife? THIS is a knife!” But it isn’t, I wasn’t even close…..

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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Newcastle Hats September 26, 2012, 2:39 pm |

    Great article Bob! Us Aussies need good quality Australian hats to protect us from the harsh (but lovely) summers 🙂

  • JohannaLala August 16, 2012, 7:20 pm |

    Thanks DocBob for the background history to ‘throwing down the hat” – it’s a heartfelt gesture and to observe the symbolism of people in dispute with the huge trucks rolling over a them was actually pretty moving. In addition, the true Aussie spirit is also depicted when the bloke picks up his flatten and battered hat, dusts it off, punched it out and plonks it back on his head in disgust. That’s some awesome hat!!!

    • BobinOz August 17, 2012, 3:30 pm |

      And the Australian spirit is certainly alive and kicking and showing its strength in the fight against coal seam gas. If you click on that link, will see my post about it and a very powerful video at the end. There is a lot of hat throwing down going on where CSG mining shows up.

  • JohannaLala August 16, 2012, 6:58 am |

    Haha, great recall – I’d forgotten how charming and fun this film was. Love the hat, you look almost authentic Oz in yours too Bob ;o)

    • BobinOz August 16, 2012, 5:59 pm |

      Yeah, I look authentic, it’s when I open my mouth it all goes wrong 🙂

      • JohannaLala August 16, 2012, 7:13 pm |

        …perfect that strong, moody, silent type demeanour. Legendary. ;o)

        • BobinOz August 17, 2012, 3:23 pm |

          Who says I’m moody! I’m FINE!!!

  • Lola August 5, 2012, 5:22 am |

    Hi Bob congratulations for this marvellous site!! please, I am trying to read the blog by categories and since some weeks ago I can´t see the pages numbers for each category..!! Please work out that, it is very helpfull for us your readers.

    I mean before when I click a category, at the right down corner I could see 1,2,3,4,5 according to pages of the category containing each one about ten post, now it is gone..!! :”(

    • BobinOz August 6, 2012, 3:36 pm |

      Hi Lola

      Those page numbers were generated by a plug-in that unfortunately was using too many resources and slowing down the performance of the whole site. So sorry, I had to remove it.

      You can pretty much navigate the same way manually, just click on the category where you last were and keep on clicking on the “previous entries” link at the bottom of each page until you get to where you last were. You can find all the categories and all the pages month by month in my “Blog Archives” lists which are linked by the words “A Month by Month List” in the side widget.

      I hope this doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of the website too much 🙂

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