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A haberdashery in Brussels

A haberdasher is a person who sells small articles for sewing, such as buttons, ribbons, zips, and other notions (in the United Kingdom[1]) or a men's outfitter (American English[2]). A haberdasher's shop or the items sold therein are called haberdashery.

Origin and use[edit]

The word appears in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.[3] Haberdashers were initially peddlers, sellers of small items such as needles and buttons. It should be noted that the word is thought to have no connection with an Old Norse word akin to the Icelandic haprtask, which means peddlers' wares or the sack in which the peddler carried them.[4] If that had been the case, a haberdasher (in its hypothetical Scandinavian meaning) would be very close to a mercer (French). Since the word has no recorded use in Scandinavia, it is most likely derived from the Anglo-Norman hapertas, meaning small ware.[5] A haberdasher would retail small wares, the goods of the peddler, while a mercer would specialize in "linens, silks, fustian, worsted piece-goods and bedding".[6]

Saint Louis IX, the King of France 1226–70, is the patron saint of haberdashers in France.[7][8] In Belgium and other places in Continental Europe, it is Saint Nicholas, while in the City of London the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers adopted Saint Catherine as the patron saint of the guild.[9]

Notable haberdashers[edit]

Paavo Nurmi in his haberdashery in Helsinki in 1939
A haberdasher's shop in the centre of Madrid

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989: "A dealer in small articles appertaining to dress, as thread, tape, ribbons, etc.
  2. ^ Collins Dictionary of the English Language (1979)
  3. ^ "The British Library, The Canterbury Tales, Caxton's first edition". Molcat1.bl.uk. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1989: haberdash, n. "Connexion with mod.Icel. haprtask 'haversack' is not possible."
  5. ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". Etymonline.com. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  6. ^ Sutton, Anne F. (2005). The Mercery of London: Trade, Goods and People, 1130–1578, p.118. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0-7546-5331-5
  7. ^ "Catholic Culture, St. Louis IX". Catholicculture.org. 2008-08-25. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  8. ^ "Patron Saints Index". 2heartsnetwork.org. 2011-02-16. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  9. ^ "Company HIstory". Haberdashers. Retrieved 2014-06-12. 
  10. ^ "Paavo Nurmen herrainvaateliike oli Mikonkadulla". Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish). 9 September 2006. Retrieved 25 January 2012. 
  11. ^ NOVA #1001