Halibut Hats and Climbers-What Gives?


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Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 3, 2013 - 02:43pm PT
How in the hell did a hat that was the traditional working uniform of the West Coast longshoremen and sailors end up as a favorite of climbers?

Also traditionally known as the “West Coast Stetson” or among sailors and union members as the “Lundberg Stetson,” it was named for Harry Lundeberg, former president of the sailors group.

Lundeberg rose to prominence in the infamous 1934 West Coast Longshormen Strike. Leave it to a Norwegien to organize such an independent, rebellious and recalcitrant group of men. Not that dissimilar from a group of Camp 4 climbers in the early days.

The white cap was part of the universal uniform for dock workers, the “Stetson,” a blue and white striped work shirt called a “hickory” and black denim pants, or what was called “Frisco jeans” back then. Virtually everybody has this costume and it was called “dressing union.”

My stepfather was a chief engineer in the merchant marines and counted many longshoremen as his mates. Growing up in Berkeley in the 50s there were a number of bars where they congregated. A regular watering hole for the longshoremen and an oasis for the seaman before shipping out was the Solano Club across from the old Mountain Travel office in Albany. This was probably my first exposure to the hat. Later the named evolved into Halibut Hat and most likely this originated in the Pacific North West and Alaska?

The Halibut Hat was Royal Robbins favorite hat du jour in the early 60s and that is most likely where I picked up the nasty habit. But then again I was not alone in this mad and expensive habit of maintaining a regular supply of hats for the years to come. Always good to know you are not running solo in your endeavor. Enjoy.


El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Feb 3, 2013 - 02:58pm PT
Great photos Guido!

I think what Mr. E wears is more of a Paperboy but stylish nonetheless.

Social climber
Butterfly Town
Feb 3, 2013 - 02:59pm PT
I had no idea that those hats were worn by so many illuminaries! Leave it to Guido to have collected so many pics of climbers wearing his favorite head gear! Great photos!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 3, 2013 - 03:03pm PT
Ah, but they both have the same derivation from what is known as the Flat Cap Era-I sh#t you not!

from out where the anecdotes roam
Feb 3, 2013 - 03:14pm PT
had a three or four year run with them in the early seventies, working on the beach in southern humboldt ... launching boats, tossing fish, ripping between anchored trawlers on one hull, and returning drunken fisherman to their boats by the dory load after closing time at the bar.

there's some shelter to be found under those things for the top edge of the ear.
a little scaly spot up there says i should never have gone back to caps.

not much of a burden accordianed onto the bill
and slipped into the back pocket, as i recall
McHale's Navy

Trad climber
Panorama City, California & living in Seattle
Feb 3, 2013 - 03:29pm PT
My step dad was in the Operating Engineers Union so maybe that's why he wore them - that was the source of my supply, and then of course, Royal gave license to wear them - The Union of Royal Robbins Society.

Feb 3, 2013 - 03:35pm PT

I started wearing one in the late 1950s.

Gym climber
squamish, b.c.
Feb 3, 2013 - 03:43pm PT

I started wearing one with out knowing how deeply routed they are in climbing history.

Great thread.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Feb 3, 2013 - 03:53pm PT

My question, Guido, is are they made from halibut skin?

hee hee hee. . .
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 3, 2013 - 04:06pm PT
Great thread Guido!

What is not to like about an all-cotton, cheap and stylish addition to an otherwise cool head?!?

Heading up La Escuela, BITD. Rich Thompson photo.

Once the tidy whities became the style du jour then it was one stop shop at the paint shop to cover your ass and top.

The shot in your OP is me on the east Buttress of MCR. Rich Thompson photo.

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Feb 3, 2013 - 04:08pm PT


Escondido, CA
Feb 3, 2013 - 04:21pm PT
North Pal, mid 80's. I just thought it was a rakishly cool hat to wear when climbing. (And yes, it's a Stetson.)

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 4, 2013 - 09:23pm PT
Routine quiver for almost all occasions:

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Feb 4, 2013 - 09:36pm PT
Well, that was the exhaustive and definitive work, for sure!
But I think we are owed at least a partial explanation of the aptly named
Isla Socorro shot!

A wannabe and his hat posing for easily impressed Swedes...

McHale's Navy

Trad climber
Panorama City, California & living in Seattle
Feb 5, 2013 - 01:38am PT
Traitor Horn, Tahquitz 1968, Larry Reynolds photo
On first ascent of Looking Glass, Whitney Portal Buttress 1970, Keith Schwartz photo.


Social climber
Feb 5, 2013 - 01:52am PT

Edit: Just saw Jefe's post - thanks for the shot!

I was actually a halibut-fishing deck-hand (as well as black cod) in Alaska in the 80's. True story. This was when there was the 48-hour "derby" fishing opening, where you long-lined for halibut for the whole 48 hours - no rest. The black cod was not so controlled.

Trying to stay away from the winter madness, but the call is too strong.

ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
Feb 5, 2013 - 02:03am PT


Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
Feb 5, 2013 - 02:17am PT
Best thread in a while!

It's weird when connections come together... I have known Dan McHale since about '74 and I climbed with Guido a couple of summers ago at Facelift. Never knew they knew each other!

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA
Feb 5, 2013 - 02:21am PT
Awesome thread and photos!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Feb 5, 2013 - 02:23am PT
Royal started doing it so that people in his slide show audiences could quickly spot him in each picture.

I was rarely photographed, so didn't pick up the fashion.

Plus hats distort sound...a major survival factor on big mountain walls is hearing exactly where the high flyer rocks are going...

People wearing helmets often show off the dents where the rocks hit...

(I have no dents in the top of my head...)
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