HABERDASHER, a name for a tradesman who sells by retail small articles used in the making or wearing of dress, such as sewing cottons or silks, tapes, buttons, pins and needles and the like. The sale of such articles is not generally carried on alone, and a " haberdashery counter " usually forms a department of drapers' shops. The word, found in Chaucer, and even earlier (1311), is of obscure origin; the suggestion that it is connected with an Icelandic haprtask, " haversack," is, according to the New English Dictionary, impossible. Hapertas occurs in an early Anglo-French customs list, which includes articles such as were sold by haberdashers, but this word may itself have been a misspelling of " haberdash." The obscurity of origin has left room for many conjectures such as that of Minsheu that " haberdasher " was perhaps merely a corruption of the German Habt ihr das? " Have you that?" or Habe das, Herr, " Have that, sir," used descriptively for a general dealer in miscellaneous wares. The Haberdashers' Company is one of the greater Livery Companies of the City of London. Originally a branch of the mercers, the fraternity took over the selling of " small wares," which included not only articles similar to those sold as " haberdashery " now, but such things as gloves, daggers, glass, pens, lanterns, mousetraps and the like. They were thus on this side connected with the Milliners. On the other hand there was early a fusion with the old gild of the " Hurers," or cap makers, and the hatters, and by the reign of Henry VII. the amalgamation was complete. There were long recognized two branches of the haberdashers, the haberdashers of " small wares," and the haberdashers of hats (see further LIVERY COMPANIES). The haberdashers are named, side by side with the capellarii, in the White Book (Liber Albus) of the city of London (see Munimenta Gildhallae Londiniensis, ed. H. T. Riley, Rolls Series, 12, 1859-1862), and a haberdasher forms one of the company of pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales (Prologue, 361).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)