Obama & JFK; Neckties & Hats

Obamawithouttie As a hatter, I find the brouhaha over Barack Obama’s aversion to neckties very reminiscent of a prior day (I am holding back from using the now cliché “déjà vu all over again”). The neckwear industry is certainly holding their collective breath (and likely putting their bucks behind John McCain). John F. Kennedy’s objection to wearing hats is legendary in our industry. As the story goes, JFK killed the hat business. And here’s where the comparison to Mr. Obama and his necktielessness becomes noteworthy, because the fact of the matter is that the trend toward hatlessness had been building since the turn into the 20th Century. Neil Steinberg’s very good book, Hatless Jack: The President, the Fedora, and the History of an American Style debunks the JFK hat murder myth [I suggest the book to anyone interested in the details]. Suffice to say, Kennedy’s preference for going bareheaded was part of a trend that had been building for decades. He did not start the trend – as he is commonly accused – but he did accelerate it. And there surely is a trend towards abandoning neckties. Few men are willingly put on a tie these days. AccordingHatlessjfk to Wikipedia, “While still common as late as 1966, between 1967 to 1969 the necktie began falling completely out of fashion nearly everywhere except where required. After a brief fashion resurgence in the 1980s, the 1990s saw the appearance of Internet-based (or dot-com) companies, where most workers did not feel the need for formal dress when facing clients, since the business's public image and appearance was websites rather than face-to-face meetings. There also was a sentiment of independence (general liberalism) and a new way of doing things.” Obamawithtie Media pundits are fond of making comparisons between JFK and Obama. Well, here is another. If Barack Obama makes it to the White House, history may very likely blame Mr. O for neckwear going out of fashion. Like Kennedy and hats, it won’t be true. But, he certainly may give the current disinclination for wearingJfkhatted_copy_2 neckties a big boost. Now, if he’d just put on a hat.

Fred Belinsky www.VillageHatShop.com

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6 Comments

  • I think that as long a people attend formal occasions and want to present themselves somewhat professionally, then the necktie is here to stay. So we have one president in an attempt to look hip and modern, decides not to wear his tie as often as tradition dictates… so what. When a businessman is wearing a shirt, he’s most probably wearing a tie…. if he want to keep his job anyway.

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  • buland says:

    hats bring personality.

  • Hi —
    I’m a new customer and very happy with the three hats I bought for myself and my son.
    One obstacle I find in wearing a fedora these days is wear to put it when taking it off. I suppose in the past more restaurants and offices had proper coat and hat hooks, but these days they’re harder to find.
    An easier way to hang a hat would make our lives easier. For example, a small loop inside the hat (as coats have) could be looped around the hook of a hanger, so a hat could be hung alongside a coat on a coat rack.

  • Daniel says:

    What is to be desired is a culture that neither requires neckties nor insists that we not wear them, and has much the same attitude about hats.
    I think that it’s helpful to the hat business when someone who looks good in a hat wears one, and when someone who does not avoids them. I’m afraid that Obama would look odd in a fedora or top hat, and that it wouldn’t be helpful to his election chances to wear the sort of headgear that would suit his head.
    Indeed, whatever one may think of his substance,* he is stylistically outstanding, and his avoidance of hats speaks to a sense on his part that they wouldn’t work for him.
    *I’m not voting for anyone.

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