Intrigued by an Apparel Arts hat illustration recently posted to the Put This On Instagram, I dug a little deeper on the hat labeled the Irish “Strawboy,” thinking, “Oh man, what have my people done now?” The truth is even weirder than that True Detective-ass hat in the illustration prepared me for.
The tradition of the Irish strawboys and their unusual headwear is related to weddings, and although it’s hard to get definitively at its origins, it’s not hard to see some pagan roots and similarities to other folk traditions, like mummers. At weddings in certain areas of Ireland (some modern Irish wedding traditions have been, erm, documented), when the wedding feast begins, a handful of uninvited guests show up and party. They wear odd, tossed together costumes and, potentially, woven straw hats that may or may not hide their identities.
Apparently, they’ll dance with the bride and entertain guests with songs, etc. Sometimes these are local dudes who really weren’t invited, sometimes they’re wedding guests who will afterward wander back in more normal attire. It all seems generally good-natured, maybe the Irish folk equivalent of wearing a lampshade on your head. And it’s supposed to bring good luck to the happy couple. That seems like a good way of getting hosts to accept your party crashing: “We’ll show up, dance with your wife, recite limericks, and leave straw all over the dancefloor, but it’s good luck for the marriage!”