Paavo Nurmi at his Helsinki haberdashery (American meaning) in 1939.
Occupation type
Activity sectors
CompetenciesSewing, tailoring

In British English, a haberdasher is a business or person who sells small articles for sewing, dressmaking and knitting, such as buttons, ribbons, and zippers;[1] in the United States, the term refers instead to a retailer who sells men's clothing, including suits, shirts, and neckties.

The sewing articles are called haberdashery in British English. The corresponding term is notions in American English[2] where haberdashery is the name for the shop itself, though it is largely an archaicism now. In Britain, haberdashery shops, or haberdashers, were a mainstay of high street retail until recent decades, but are now uncommon, due to the decline in home dressmaking, knitting and other textile skills and hobbies, and the rise of internet shopping. They were very often drapers as well, the term for sellers of cloth.

Origin and use

A haberdasher's shop (British meaning) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

The word haberdasher appears in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.[3] It is derived from the Anglo-French word hapertas. It is debatable what hapertas meant, but most likely it was some type of fabric or assorted small ware. A haberdasher would retail small wares, the goods of the pedlar, while a mercer would specialize in "linens, silks, fustian, worsted piece-goods and bedding".[4]

In Belgium and elsewhere in Continental Europe, Saint Nicholas remains their patron saint, while Saint Catherine was adopted by the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers in the City of London.[5]

See also


  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. ^ Sutton, Anne F. (2005). The Mercery of London: Trade, Goods and People, 1130–1578, p.118. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0-7546-5331-5
  5. ^ "Company HIstory". Haberdashers. Retrieved 2014-06-12.