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The Shrinking Pressman's Hat

Old Pressman

The decay of the newspaper business is causing a lot of handwringing within the industry, but its slow-speed demise risks taking with it a notable artifact: the pressman's hat.

Many workers in print shops used to wear these stylish boxy getups to keep the ink and dust and whatnot out of their hair. They are made from sheets of broadsheet newspaper pages that are folded origami-like. You can find some great examples in this excellent set of photos that were taken over the years in the L.A. Times' pressroom.

The printing business is a lot cleaner than it used to be, and the pressman's hat actually gave way to the baseball cap long ago. But even disregarding the shrinking popularity of newspapers, the paper hat is an endangered species because of the shrinking size of the physical newspaper. Broadsheet newspapers used to be legitimately broad. U.S. broadsheet pages were once 15 inches wide, but have shrunk to 12 inches over the last decade or so, making the full spread 6 inches narrower. (Narrower pages means lower paper costs.)

Pressman's hat

So, grab a newspaper while you still can. A Google search can help you turn up various tutorials on how to fold it into a few hats. (There's probably some irony in that last sentence.) There's one here and another here. As a proud maker/owner of a brand-new pressman's hat, I can say that good paper is helpful. My hometown paper prints its four-page Sunday comics section on nice heavy stock. Otherwise, two full sheets of paper might be better.

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