Slice Of Amish Life: Trying On Hats At Yoder’s

This is a photo I came across recently on Flickr. Two Amish men try out hats at Yoder Department Store in Shipshewana, Indiana. What do you notice here?

First, briefly on the location. Yoder’s is a department store that sells men’s and women’s clothing as well as fabrics and sewing supplies. The clientele is both Amish and English. It’s located in Yoder’s Shopping Center, which also houses Yoder’s Hardware.

Zooming in a bit, you can see these men’s clothing styles are quite different.

The look of the man on the right, with the lighter trousers and no suspenders, is pretty common for northern Indiana.

Not all Amish men wear suspenders for everyday wear, particularly in the Midwest. Here are a couple of other examples of the baggy short-sleeved shirt look with no suspenders, from the RV factories of the region:

In the photo we can also see some accessories, including a “Hat Saver.”

If you were wondering, the Hat Saver has a hinge on one end which attaches to the roof of your vehicle, and safely secures your hat when you’re not wearing it while driving. A sound idea.

Back to the hats. Did you notice all the styles available? You can see these are not all Amish hats.

[Or, could the white model actually be the Jonas Stutzman commemorative edition? (Stutzman was a pioneer Amishman who became known for dressing in white clothing).]

The second man is checking out a hat over in that section. This man has a bigger beard and somewhat plainer look. Is he from a different community?

You might also be wondering, how often do Amish men buy hats?

Here’s an answer provided by the Scribbler column of Lancaster Online. He’s writing more from the perspective of the Lancaster Amish, a more agricultural community than northern Indiana. But you can get a general idea here of hat-buying and wearing customs:

A straw hat worn in the field all spring “begins looking a little dilapidated by summer,” says one source. “By the time it’s fall, it’s time to chuck it in the stove or the corn chopper.”

A good wool or felt hat, if worn every day, will last all winter. A hat worn only for Sunday services might last 10 years.

Many Amish men have three hats: a straw hat for summer, a black work hat for winter and a Sunday-go-to-meeting hat.

The wide selection of cowboy and other style headwear in Yoder’s suggests this store gets a lot of non-Amish business (here’s their website if you’re curious).

In fact, according to the site, they only have five “Amish” models in stock (at least that they advertise online; there appear to be more in the photo), with prices ranging from about $37 to $100 for a church hat.

As for other products, the sewing and fabric items are unsurprisingly a hit with Amish. Here’s a bit from a blog post on the store by one of Yoder’s suppliers, Moda Fabrics:

She notes that Bella solids are also especially popular. “We kind of focus on them, because many of our guests can’t find them in their local shops.” Amish customers who sew their own clothing also appreciate them. “We’ve noticed a trend of young Amish ladies purchasing 100% cotton for their little boys shirts,” says Candice Parker, the fabrics department manager. “In the past they were using blends.”

I’ve actually never been to Yoder’s. Maybe some of you have. Seems like a good spot with a lot of history, dating back to the founders buying a dry goods store in nearby Topeka way back in 1945.

In any case, the place gave us a nice slice of Amish life today. I wonder if these two fellows found what they were looking for?

Photo by dclmeyer.

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    1. Jeff Mina

      A Fun Store

      I have been to Yoder’s Department store many times and go there at least once a year. It’s a fun store. We always walk out with bags full of purchases. We are not Amish, and there are items there that appeal to everyone – from hats and fabrics to shoes to casual and dress clothing. My wife always finds a pair or two of shoes there. The hardware store across the hall is a real treat, too.

      1. Sounds like a spot worth checking out Jeff. I would probably at least leave with a wooly cap (or “toboggan” as we called them). I need to remember this one.

    2. Arkansas Billy Bob

      We are not Amish but we have lived amoungst them most of my life. I wear suspenders except when wearing bibs. I feel naked without suspenders whilst dressed in trousers.

      I wear an Amish lid, I find it comforting.

    3. Geo

      Nice hoot display

      My Amish friend Eli calls his hat a “hoot”, which is the Amish pronunciation. The actual Dutch and German spelling is “hoed”. The OE is pronounced like the double O in English. That also is a clue to why Amish tend to pronounce English words ending in a D (like HAD) as if they end with T.

      1. Debbie

        Comment to Geo

        It’s the German dialect or accent, their D’s sound like T’s.

    4. One of out readers shared this comment, which I thought would be worth passing along:

      “I find it ironic and a bit amusing that in Northern Indiana, Goshen/Lagrange area, the Amish wear “stocking hats” in 90 degree summer weather, while in Lancaster County the Amish wear straw hats in sub-freezing temperatures.”

    5. J.O.B.

      Straw hat

      Just noticed that they also sell the straw hats.

      Flat Crown Straw Hat. $16.98.

    6. Romain Speisser

      I bounce back on what GEO says.
      With us also in Alsatian dialect we say “Hoet”.
      Indeed for certain words the D at the end of the word is pronounced T and the P is pronounced B. Older people who do not understand French well and who speak mainly Alsatian take with them a “Barabli” instead of an “Parapluie”(umbrella) and the V is pronounced like an F.

    7. Jason Miller

      Two men

      I used to work in the building next door to Yoders and had friends who worked there. My dad worked at the hardware across the street. 20-25 years ago, when I was growing up there, I would have said the man on the right was from one of the districts right around Shipshewana or to the west, toward Middlebury. The man on the right would have been from east or southeast of Shipshewana, toward Lagrange. There were some very conservative districts in the eastern part of Lagrange County. I don’t think they were affiliated differently, but because of the bishops and local traditions, their farms and clothes looked different (darker fabrics, more conservative styles, darker colored buildings, and dirtier farms). They may have also been poorer. The trailer/RV factories from Shipshewana and west into Goshen and Elkhart gave Amish families a lot more money to work with, and they found ways to show it.

      I don’t know if this is still the case.

      1. Good comment Jason. Elkhart-LaGrange is considered one affiliation but with a good bit of Ordnung variation (I may be misremembering, though it’s possible there was a district at some point in recent history not in affiliation there, but it’s pretty much all considered one affiliation). I’m just not super familiar with the appearance of the clothing of the plainer churches there, as it’s been a long time since I spent much time in that part of the community, but you can definitely tell it’s plainer when you go further east. There is also the Barrens area, which is also one of the plainest parts of the settlement and quite close to Shipshewana. Assuming these two men are both local, it would be a great illustration of the variation in clothing in this large community.

        1. Al Mortenson

          Last year a couple of people from the Shipshewana area told me there is now a New Order Amish district in the area. I have noticed that quite often in The Budget newspaper there is now a scribe/correspondent who identifies themselves as reporting news from the Shipshewana “New Order Christian Fellowship”. It would be interesting to learn more about this.

          1. Al – thanks for reminding me. Something was nagging at me that it is not all 100% one affiliation anymore. I just couldn’t remember what. I think you or someone else may have mentioned the New Order district here before.

    8. Sunflower

      Hat saver

      I’ve got to find me one of those hat savers! Almost lost my hat out the truck window three times, even when its been on my head while driving. Great idea!