A pair of Laurel and Hardy derby hats
Laurel's flat-brim derby hat made of stiff black felt with a black grosgrain band and trim; Hardy's curved-brim derby hat also made of stiff black felt with a black grosgrain band and trim, bearing the remains of a brown leather band on the interior. Accompanied by a framed photograph of the pair wearing these hats on stage at the Belfast Opera House in 1952, and a letter of provenance from the previous owner, collector Neil McCormick, describing how he obtained the hats. The McCormick family had placed an ad in a Belfast newspaper seeking Laurel & Hardy autographs, and were contacted by Mary McDowell, a former employee of the Opera House. She had met Laurel and Hardy after one of their performances, and the two comedians, who were known for their generosity to fans, had given her not only their autographs, but these two hats as well. Years later, Ms. McDowell sold these items to the McCormick family.
Derby hats are indelibly associated with the image of Laurel and Hardy and were a key prop in their comedy routines. Laurel wore his a few sizes too small, with a flat brim and a high crown, emphasizing his thin, tall appearance, in contrast to Hardy's larger, curved brim hat, which enhanced his more rotund figure. Laurel and Hardy's derby hats were a signature of their films and performances from the 1920s until Hardy's death in 1957.