Classic Hats Making a Comeback in Everyday Fashion

Contributing Writer

PANAMA STYLE: Tulsan T.A. Hollis is in good company in using a hat as his signature: from presidents of the United States to timeless movie stars, Bowlers, Derby’s and fedoras are returning to mainstream fashion.

Courtesy T.A. Hollis

“Walking (erect) and hats separate man from other species.”
– George Carlin, political satirist and comedian
“I enjoy hats. And when one has filthy hair, that is a good accessory.”
–Julia Roberts, Academy Award winner In the early 1960s, the wearing of hats by men faded into the sunset and the surreal paintings of Rene Magritte in masterpieces like “Golconda” (1953) and “The Son of Man” (1964). Magritte pointed out the absurdity of conformity by depicting cookie-cutter men in dark suits and Bowler hats. Ironically, his father was a milliner.

It has been rumored that the decline in popularity of haberdasheries specializing in Bowlers, fedoras, the Panama hat and such coincided with the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Prior to that time it was noted that every other president had worn a top hat to the ceremony. The truth, in fact and in photographs, is that JFK did indeed wear the obligatory topper, with the exception of when he gave his inaugural speech. Even then, his hat could be seen sitting atop a chair behind him.

Abraham Lincoln’s top hat is in the Smithsonian. The top hat in the game of Monopoly is an icon. Guitarist Slash of Guns N’ Roses is likely still wearing his top hat. Many rabbits are probably tickled pink that Criss Angel and David Blaine are escapologists and not traditional magicians. “Have you ever been mad as a hatter?” The term is authentic and a condition that refers to mercuric acid laced in hats. It was the basis for the character called the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”

Men’s hats simply went out of style. The 60s was laid back and casual. Cowboy hats and baseball caps were the only ones to make the cut. Haircuts weren’t that popular either when one recalls the days of Elvis, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Where would one put a hat if he had one?

That is, however, not a question one asks the very dapper, man-about-T-Town, T. A. Hollis, who is also a man of many hats. He doesn’t remember ever not wearing a hat. He produces a tattered photograph of when he was four years old as proof.

“My father always told me hats were worn by men of purpose and distinction. I remembered that.”

Hollis, senior accounts manager for a major telecommunications company in Tulsa, explains his slight eccentricity.

“A lot of what I do is self-branding. Unfortunately, people don’t always remember your name, but they always remember the visual.”

While the popularity of hats waned for a while in the real world, they have never dimmed in the “reel” world. Humphrey Bogart is best known for his fedora-wearing roles in “Casablanca” and “the Maltese Falcon.” Marlene Dietrich was his androgynous counterpart. The fedora became synonymous with private eye, tough guy and gangster. With the advent of music videos, gangsters are now “gangstas,” and still “bad” in their fedoras (i.e. the late Notorious B.I.G., Easy E. and Snoop Dogg.) “Indiana Jones” turned the wearer into an “adventurer.” The character’s hat now rests at the George Lucas Skywalker Ranch. Comic book heroes like Clark Kent and Dick Tracy gave the fedora a “heads up” for the “good guy.”

Somewhere between the top hat and the fedora, in the 19th century, came the Bowler, also called the Derby. It was designed by brothers Thomas and William Bowler for Lock and Company Hatters of St. James Street in London, which was founded in 1676 and is still in existence today (

“Harry Potter” character Mad-Eye Moody conceals his magical eye with a Bowler. Other top Bowlers include Liza Minelli on Broadway and in the film “Cabaret,” Robert Redford in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” Malcolm McDowell in “Clockwork Orange,” and French painter Toulouse-Lautrec.

As the saying goes, “Everything old is new again.” Senator Obama threw his hat into the ring at a Texas rally; Brad Pitt wore a fedora to accept an award at the American Idol Gives Back Fund Raiser; Pete Wentz of the band Fall Out Boy and fiancé Ashlee Simpson wear them. Kidd Rock rocks.

George Clooney appears in the movie “Leatherheads” wearing a hat; Kate Hudson and Sienna Miller love the look and look lovely in fedoras. White Stripes front man, Jack White wore a Bowler on the cover of “Rolling Stone” magazine, flanked by legendary Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Madonna graces the May cover of “Elle” magazine wearing a black felt fedora.

Apparently, there are even practical reasons to wear a hat such as to shield oneself from the sun, rain and cold.
The hat is back, and that’s a fact.

Updated 05-05-2008

Back to Top


Back to Top

Contact GTR News

About Post Author