Inventor Victor T. Hoeflich, founder of novelty manufacturing corporation American Merri-Lei of Brooklyn, New York, introduced his “Man-from-Mars Radio Hat” in March 1949.
In the press conference, he used teenagers as models. Sold in department stores across the U.S. and by mail, the hat retailed for $7.95. Designed after a pith helmet, it could be ordered in eight colors: Lipstick Red, Canary Yellow, Blush Pink, Rose Pink, Tangerine, Flamingo, Chartreuse and Tan. Later seven more color options were added.
Although the hat had a futuristic appearance at the time, this was in fact due to technical limitations. While the transistor had been invented in 1947, it was still experimental and not widely available. And portable transistor radios did not appear until 1954. The hat’s radio relied on valve technology, and Hoeflich made the valves a prominent feature, as well as the loop aerial. The tuning knob sat between the two valves.
Radio valve technology had advanced during WWII, allowing lower-powered versions. This meant the hat’s radio could be battery-powered at the lower voltages required for a head-borne radio.
The battery was carried in the user’s pocket.