Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.
slithytove

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Men Without Hats


I am a Boomer. I belong to the generation of Men Without Hats.

American males of the WWII generation wore hats. Think of Frank Sinatra with his fedora, or the Eisenhower administration and its homburgs. That all changed January 20, 1961, when John F. Kennedy was inaugurated President of the United States, on a wintry cold day, without a hat. American men of age 40 or less stopped wearing hats. My own father, then around 60, wore a fedora without fail almost every time he left the house, to the end of his life. But I never picked up the hat habit, nor did most of my contemporaries. It was the force of John Kennedy that did it. The presidency, as they say, is a bully pulpit. Not just for big matters, like mobilizing the nation to war, or trying to affect how we feel about his proposed budget, or his ideas about race relations, but the little things, too. Such as the way we feel about the color of men's clothing. Or hats.

Oddly, Ronald Reagan had a similar effect on male fashion. Prior to his time, from at least the 1950's through the 1970's, the color brown had been declasse in male business suits. Any middle-class male who wished to make a good impression wore grey, blue, or pinstripe. Never brown. But Reagan wore brown suits! And marvel of marvels, during his administration the style changed. Now brown suits were considered fashionable.

So if handsome, young, charismatic John Kennedy didn't wear a hat, then we weren't going to wear them either. And we didn't, for forty years.

But the Boomer generation is passing. We're not dead yet, but we have clearly passed our creative aphelion. We are at our hour of maximum political and economic power, but we are no longer the source of new ideas, scientific ones, artistic ones, or ideas of style or fashion. New ideas come from the young. And young males are starting to wear hats again. Baseball caps. Backward.

Like much male fashion, baseball caps have come into middle-class dress not from above, from 7th Avenue and the Paris runways, but from below, from the poor and marginalized, from the rappers and hip-hoppers, from gangstas and thugs. Male fashion is like that. Consider blue jeans. This was not a style any designer designed. It was originally manufactured for miners and cowboys. Or take ties. The long tie that's a standard part of male business attire is derived from the scarves worn by Croatian mercenaries in King Louis XIII's army in the 17th century. I guess guys like clothing that seems rugged and authentic, and both cowboys and Croatian soldiers have had ruggedness and authenticity in spades. So do rappers.

So hats have come again. Like jeans before them, they're looked down upon by the middle-aged. That will change, as the middle-aged become the old, and the young start taking their place in the world. Want to bet they'll still want to wear their hats?

I fearlessly predict that in twenty or thirty years time, a president will be inaugurated. For the first time in (by then) 60 or more years, the man on the stand taking the oath of office from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will be wearing a hat. It will be a baseball cap. It will be backward.

The world will survive.
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