But a riot that started over a silly male fashion rule about not wearing straw hats past September 15? It’s probably the most pointless of all.
It began on September 13, 1922, two days before the end of straw-hat season. Donning straw after this date made you the target of street kids, who would steal your hat and stomp on it.
Eager kids living near Mulberry Bend decided to get a jump on this weird tradition, grabbing hats off factory workers’ heads and smashing them.
Some men fought back, and brawls began by the Manhattan Bridge. Police broke them up, but only temporarily. For the next few nights, mobs of youths across the city roamed the streets, stealing hats and beating victims.
“A favorite practice of the gangsters was to arm themselves with sticks, some with nails at the tip, and compel men wearing straw hats to run a gauntlet,” states The History Box.
“Sometimes the hoodlums would hide in doorways and dash out, 10 or 12 strong, to attack one or two men. Along Christopher Street, on the Lower West Side, the attackers lined up along the surface car tracks and yanked straw hats off the heads of passengers as the cars passed.”
A mob a thousand roamed Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side, reported The New York Times, while more gangs came out on the Lower East Side and East Harlem.
Incredibly, no one was killed—though riots broke out again over the next few years that did claim at least one victim.
[Above photo: Men in straw hats on William Street, about a decade before the 1922 riots.]