When did men stop wearing hats? Why did men stop wearing hats? And what does it say about American society? The decline of men wearing homburgs, top hats, bowlers, and fedoras was a gradual one. In 2011, when men have traded in their dress shirts for golf shirts, and the average guy on the street wears jeans, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap, the majority of mutants people would ask why did men wear dress hats to begin with?
Wearing hats “back in the day” may have started out as a pragmatic way to keep the head warm, but it soon became the socially acceptable way for men to dress. Thus, the decline of wearing dress hats may be rooted in non-conformity. However, once again it may have been rooted in a pragmatic reasons.
That being said, like the fall of the Roman Empire, there are many reasons why men stopped wearing whats and when men stopped wearing hats. Let’s go through the various theories:
Fashions come and go. The sports cap of 2011 is no different than the fedora of 1955. Actually, a hat is defined as having a full brim, so they are not the same. A hat is still viewed as old school, something your dad or granddad would wear. Wearing a hat in public in 2011 makes a statement. Men have been wearing hats for centuries in the United States, so it was not mere fashion fad. Then in the 1960′s they disappeared (black men are “allowed” to wear hats without social leprosy, but black men wearing hats is not widespread).
The growth of the automobile in the late 1950′s. I like this theory, although it doesn’t explain taxi cab drivers. However as more and more people started to buy cars- especially cars with no roofs when driving- holding on to that hat would be hard. Also, I imagine car air conditioning in 1960 wasn’t as good as today, so it could have been too hot to wear it. Since many hats were tall, bending in your car with roofs and fitting your head may have been difficult. More importantly, however, is that with the growth of cities people no longer needed to walk and keep the sun out of their eyes and/or not be exposed to cold drafts or cold weather.
John F. Kennedy. Although it is an urban legend that JFK did not wear a hat during his 1961 inauguration, the fact is that JFK was not a huge fan of hats (“Hatless Jack”) while he was president because he wanted to be seen as a young and progressive leader, not “an old hat”. It is very possible that Kennedy killed hats. Some Snopes geeks get fixated on JFK wearing a hat during inauguration as “proof” JFK did not lead to the decrease of hat sales, especially since Snopes claims sales were already on the way down. However, there is no doubt JFK snubbing hats influenced many Americans. In fact, I’ve spoken with older men who gave me that reason.
Men’s hairstyling led to a conflict of fashions. As men began to grow their hair out longer in the 1960′s they wanted to flaunt their locks. By the 1970′s hats were extinct. Although it would not account for the alleged decrease of men’s hat sales since the late 1950′s, men still began to use greasy hair cream and didn’t want to mess up their hair by wearing a hat. This- as with automobiles- may another practical reason.
Cultural shift. Cultural shifts are hard to pinpoint or prove. Our gut instincts want to give the reason that men didn’t wear hats anymore as some sort of revolution. The non-conformity seems to be the most obvious reason for the decline of hats. This is similar to business men wearing polo shirts and khakis today, as opposed to the traditional black tie + expensive suit. In the non-business world, it is similar to the mutant slackers who wear flip flops, baseball cap turned backwards, baggy pants, and wife beater t-shirts in the street. In the 1960′s there was a rejection of the straight-laced squares of the past. The British Invasion rock bands such The Beatles and The Rolling Stones showed off their locks and were hatless on the Ed Sullivan Show. Hippies and feminists may have forced the issue.
Television and Movies. Heck, Ed Sullivan was hatless since 1950. Sometimes wearing a hat indoors looked too formal on TV, so Americans were getting used to seeing men hatless and started copying their favorite celebrities. James Bond wore a hat in the first two films, but not in the third (1964). Monkey see, monkey do.
“Equality”. As things got more and more casual (that’s what happens when the United States jumped the shark) social etiquette became a unnecessary and useless tradition, as all traditions eventually get flushed down the toilet by mutants nihilists, anarchists, communists, and “smarter” new generations. Since not everyone could afford a good hat, everyone should therefore be “equal” by not wearing hats. Also, it was a “class thing”: the expectation was that people of high social standing wore hats, and the better the hat = more rich you were. Older people from the rural midwest told me that when they went to the “big city”, they would put on their hats. So over time, people said “pass”.
Laziness. Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y have something in common: they don’t like dressing up every day. Look at Google, Facebook, and Apple: their techies dress like total slobs, and “it’s okay” as long as they produce. So it stands to reason that way back in the late 1950′s someone didn’t want to put on his hat while going to work, and the “lowest denominator” trend caught on. It happened with ties in the 1990′s.
Indoor plumbing and affordable shampoo. Newsflash: guys didn’t wash their hair every day back in the day. So the hats were used as a “cover up”. As shampoo became affordable, they could finally take their hats off.
Sunglasses. If one of the purposes of wearing a hat was to block the sun, the growth of sunglasses should make a dent in that theory. Too bad sunglasses don’t make your head warm, though. The sunglass theory is outside of the time frame, as well.
Hats got too expensive: The cost of producing hats increased. Alpaca hair, goat mutton and felt from camels shot up in price. Add the fact that “hat stalls” were leased by restaurants and hotels, and they jacked their prices up and expected tips, and it was becoming too pricey to own a hat.
False premise: most guys did not wear hats! Don’t base your perceptions of still black-and-white photos, Hollywood movies, or bad TV sitcoms. (This is just a mutant dumb theory.)
So…Why or When Did Men Stop Wearing Hats?
My advice: actually find AN OLD MAN- he could be around 60-100 years old, and why don’t you actually ASK HIM when he stopped wearing a hat, and if “everyone wore hats”.
How about this idea, folks…since we are a bunch on non-comformists now, and society tells us that it’s NOT okay to wear hats…let’s start to wear hats again.
Matt Drudge of Drudge Report does it, and it looks cool.
Wanna start a hat revolution against the mutants slackers?
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