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The Independent Online
The history of hat-tricks goes back centuries and could describe any piece of magicianship involving a hat. In 1886, the Daily Telegraph wrote, with reference to an MP: "He may soon acquire the hat-trick and other ways of securing a place." Members of the House of Commons at the time would routinely place their hat on a seat to reserve it.

The hat-trick, in sporting terms, originated in the second half of the 19th century, with the taking of three wickets with successive balls in a game of cricket. The achiever of this feat thus became entitled to a new hat (or some equivalent) at the expense of his club. The term slowly became used to mark a threefold feat in other activities.

The first recorded use of the term was in an 1877 edition of Cricketers' Companion, where a player is described as taking six wickets in seven balls, "thus performing the hat-trick successfully". By 1882, it was a known term but still somewhat rare. A Telegraph article of 19 May that year reports: "He thus accomplished the feat known as the `hat-trick', and was warmly applauded."

The sporting use of hat-trick may have some connection to the invention of the Bowler by a London hatter, in 1850, although there is no record that the hat awarded was of any particular type.

Although it is not known why it was specifically a hat that was presented, there has been a tradition of headgear rewards for notable achievements since Roman times, when freed slaves were given a cap to mark their liberty. England footballers are still awarded caps for playing at international level.

The reason why three feats are deemed worthy of special merit is uncertain, though the roots may lie in the special nature of the Holy Trinity in Christianity.