Could it be? Are hats making a comeback?WORTHINGTON — My dad looked like a million dollars in a hat. He really did. He didn’t often wear a hat. Day by day, at the station, he wore a service cap. But when something special came along — a part of what made something special — the gray fedora. Special. Well, at very least, the hat meant we were going to church.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — My dad looked like a million dollars in a hat. He really did. He didn’t often wear a hat. Day by day, at the station, he wore a service cap. But when something special came along — a part of what made something special — the gray fedora.
Special. Well, at very least, the hat meant we were going to church. But the hat also might mean we were driving to Sioux Falls, S.D. For summer they came to have a finely-woven straw hat in the fedora mold. When that hat came out, it could mean we were heading for Arnolds Park, Iowa. Something special.
Hats were a signal, not just in my family. We all knew something was shaping when the old man lifted The Hat from the closet shelf.
There were cap men. Wool, flat cap men. Harold Staubus comes to mind. Chet Mosher. Dewey Montgomery. They looked great, too. (Well, think of, “The Sting” — Paul Newman wears a fedora, Robert Redford has a flat cap.)
For most, in that time when men still made an effort to dress up, it was the fedora. The big time crooks wore them. Al Capone wore a hat. So did the presidents. FDR looked great in a hat. Movie stars wore them. Clark Gable.
The thing that happened to hats — I was something of a witness to this. When Hubert Humphrey was running against John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential primaries in Wisconsin and West Virginia, HHH wore a fedora. Nearly every politician did. Gene McCarthy. Orville Freeman. LBJ wore a Stetson. Stylishly fashionable.
Then John Kennedy, with that head of hair thick enough for two men or three cats, began making appearances in only a top coat. No hat. Instant chic. For the Kennedy inauguration, no old-time, Harry Truman fedora.
For the Kennedy inauguration — a thing I (in a hat) noted closely — it was both inaugural address and a walk down Pennsylvania Avenue with the winter wind ruffling the thick, coiffed locks. Hats were gone. JFK, they said, was “stylishly casual.” Stylishly casual has been the fashion rule for nearly half-a-century.
The thing that got me going on this — I found a super-size Barack Obama inauguration photo on rhe Internet. I have studied this photo several times. I am not looking at Barack Obama. There are a lot of Barack pictures. I am looking at the crowd.
There is Edward Kennedy, brother of Stylishly Casual, back at a presidential inaugural and crowned with a black fedora. Same for Dick Cheney. Black fedora with the brim bent down in front. (Someone said, “You know what happened to Teddy Kennedy that day.” I say, “It would have been worse if he hadn’t been wearing a hat.”)
Now look more closely at this inauguration picture — look at that crowd ...
Walter Mondale made his entrance bare-headed, but he is sitting at the ceremony with a blue-grey, wool flat cap on his head. Jimmy Carter has a flat cap, nearly orange-colored. George H.W. Bush had something hanging from his coat pocket when he made his entrance. That something is a fur cap bigger than a rabbit; he put on the rabbit as quickly as he sat down. Oh — and Barbara Bush is wearing black ear muffs.
Move from one head to another to another. The service men, of course, the cowboy politicians, politicians Minnesotans and Iowans recognize — a hat, a cap, a cap, a hat, a stocking cap.
Al Gore has a bare head, but then Al Gore basks in global warming. Bill Clinton has a bare head, and he also has a red nose.
Every member of the Supreme Court has a covered head save for David Souter, Clarence Thomas and John Roberts. John Roberts was so scalp-numbed he flubbed the presidential oath.
It only makes sense. My word. Those people were sitting out there on a January morning in a January wind chill. If you’ve got any sense, what do you do?
Put something on your head.
Neither the new president nor the old president covered their heads, but I have an idea hats and caps are becoming stylishly fashionable once again nevertheless. President Obama would look great in a bowler.
Maybe hats for women, too. Aretha Franklin’s gray hat with that enormous gray bow. Wow!
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.