Fuck you, Elvis. Fuck you for stopping men from wearing hats – and top hats in particular.
I mean, to be fair, it was Elvis and JFK who stifled this fashion. There’s actually a great scene in Mad Men that addresses the rise of youth culture. Roger says, “Nobody will vote for Kennedy. Have you seen him? He doesn’t even wear a hat.” Pete, a younger member at the firm replies, “Elvis doesn’t wear a hat.”
Pete is correct. By the late 1960s, no one remotely cool was going to be wearing a hat.
If you like history, Pete is by far the most fun character to listen to on Mad Men, because, despite being a douchebag, he accurately predicts the outcome of every major world event. But no one listens to him because everyone hates him, and that is why Pete is my favorite character.
But I really think you’re getting me a little off track here.
What you may not know is that disdaining hats was probably the most rebellious Elvis or JFK ever got, not including music or politics. Or sex. The top hat was first created at the end of the 18th century, when fashionable dandies were attempting to outdo one another with outrageous fashion statements. These days, it is exceedingly exciting if men wear any accessory whatsoever, but people tried harder then. Also, there was no television, so they didn’t have much to do.
In January 1797, a certain Hetherington appeared in the streets of London. The hat maker walked along the thoroughfare wearing a top hat in the shape of a stovepipe. Within a short time, a large crowd had gathered around him. There was such chaos that the ‘officer of the law’ grabbed Hetherington by the collar and summonsed him before the court. He was accused of disturbing public order.
The officer, who dealt with the scandal, described the offence as follows: “Hetherington had such a tall and shiny construction on his head that it must have terrified nervous people. The sight of this construction was so overstated that various women fainted, children began to cry and dogs started to bark. One child broke his arm among all the jostling.”
The hat maker relied in his defense on the right of every Englishman to place what he wanted on his head.
The Times defended him saying, “Sooner or later, everyone will accept this head wear. We believe that both the court and the police made a mistake here.”