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The Dallas Morning News just reported that the gray felt fedora Jack Ruby wore when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald, President John F. Kennedy’s murderer, soon will be up for sale in Dallas.

11:24 am on November 22nd 1963. It definitely was newsy Sunday in Dallas, as authorities were preparing to transfer 24-year-old Oswald by car from police headquarters to the nearby county jail two days after he had committed the most terrifying assassination in the history of the United States. Stepping out from an overwhelming crowd of reporters and photographers, Ruby fired a snub-nosed Colt Cobra .38 into Oswald’s abdomen on a nationally televised live broadcast.

He was wearing a grey felt fedora.

Ruby was then arrested. First, he said that he was acting on behave of President Kennedy. Then, he said it was a spontaneous act with no real reasoning. It was then proved that he was taking Preludin. Finally, his defense attorney, Melvin Belli, agreed to represent Ruby free of charge proving that he was legally insane and had a history of mental illness in his family. Ruby died on January 3, 1967, from a lung cancer.

“It’s a pretty stylish hat,” said Noah Fleisher, a spokesman for the Heritage Auction Galleries that will start taking advance bids for the hat in October and will put it up for auction in early November. “The guy had good taste,” said Fleisher. In 2008, the hat was auctioned for $61,000. According to liveauctioneers.com, the hat is a size 7.25 and includes “Jack Ruby” in gold lettering on the inside of the hat, as one can see in the picture. The price, $16.50, also stamped on the topper, is an unreal figure that just pretends to create the buzz with the pitch that is being faithful to the original price. Here’s what the Auction House says about the piece:

“Cavanagh Hats/New York,” and a two-lion emblem are found on the inside silk portion of the hat. “Jas K. Wilson/Dallas” is printed in gold script lettering on the left of the inside hat band. “JACK RUBY” is printed in gold lettering on the right side of the inside hat band. “Cavanagh Edge” is printed in gold lettering on the front of the inside hat band. Underneath the inside hat band, the style (“5B03 Dawn”) and price ($16.50) can be found. Includes a photocopy of the first three pages of “Accounting of Independent Executor” in the Probate Court No. 2 of Dallas County, Texas, identifying this hat as “worn by Jack L. Ruby at the moment he shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald on November 24, 1963.”

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Also in November, a front page of The Dallas Morning News autographed by President John F. Kennedy on the day he was assassinated by Oswald in 1963 will be put up for auction with the hat.

What is interesting about the whole story is that the news came out particularly today, two days after Ted Kennedy’s death. Commentators on The Dallas Morning News article imply that Ted’s momentum is being used to advertise the auction. “They should put the hat on Ted Kennedy and bury that era altogether,” says one of the readers. Let’s just stick to the hat. 

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Hats Explain Our World

August 27, 2009

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For instance, this cartoon reflects two absolute verities: we are in crisis and the effects are not even noticed by its causers. 

Instructions to Wear a Hat

August 26, 2009

Baron California Hats could be the most important hat shop in America. Just think about it: a well-known, legendary and sophisticated hat shop in the land of clothing experimentation, Hollywood. This is Hollywood local hat store. So therefore, John Wayne, Crocodile Dundee, Michael and Janet Jackson, Johnny Depp, and so forth are regular clients of this shop. 

Also, they have a quite good, slightly tacky website, where you can find the story of the owner, Mr. Mark Maejía, the history of the shop, celebrities’ hat size and, most importantly, the instructions to wear a hat.

This is Hat-wearing for Dummies. Here are some os the tips:

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  1. Do not pick up your hat by “pinching” the crown, either at the top or front. Pinching will flex the felt, and eventually cause a hole or crack to develop in the material.
  2. Pick up the hat either by the front and back of the brim, or by placing your thumbs inside the leather sweatband at the sides with your fingers just touching the outside of the brim.
  3. Keep it from dirt and dust. That means to keep it covered in a loosely wrapped plastic bag and sealed with a “tie.” (“Hefty Bags” are great, but don’t buy the ones that come with a “fresh scent” insert.)
  4. Store them in a professional hat box. Do not put your stored hat under anything in the closet. Even with a sturdy hatbox, it’s a good practice to put the hats on top of the “pile”, or on the floor, with nothing on top of it. 
  5. There are two different types of moth balls used to combat moths. In one type, the main ingredient is naphthalene, and in the other it is paradichlorobenzene. Both chemicals kill moths and moth larvae with the fumes.
  6. When feeling the hat quite loose, place a “line” of cotton underneath the sweatband, making sure you place a consistent layer all around the hat.
  7. To clean it, don’t use water. Use a soft bristle brush, especially one that specifically is made for hats. 

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Groucho Marx In The Hat

August 25, 2009

Now here’s why a hat is an element with life: with personality and peculiarities. As we’ve said a million times, in the thirties a hat was an essential part of a man’s clothing. Halessness was synonym of nudity. This is the time that gave birth to the work of comedy legend Groucho Marx, the one and only. In every single one of the Marx Brothers’ works we can notice the importance of hats for this time, but in this hilarious one we realize that a hat wasn’t only an accessory. It was the personification of a man, his face to the world. More than words, this video, performed by brother Harpo Marx, deserves a few laughs. Enjoy.  

The Onassis-Bruni Effect

August 24, 2009

This summer the confirmation took place: the Pillbox hat is back. Both at the Del Mar racetrack and at the Ascot Racecourse we saw it: the Pillbox is the new trend. The signature headgear of Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn, modeled with overwhelming relevance by Grace Kelly and Carla Bruni, has been not only officially reestablished as the trend of the racecourse sophistication, but also positioned as a street fashion that will take the runways this fall.

In a fine article published today in stuff.co.nz Judy Coomber, Myer’s director of apparel, says, “Certainly this season we see a trend towards refined dressing so the pillbox and cocktail-style hats are very relevant…The pillbox hat was a huge trend in the 1960s and this season there are many interpretations from sweet, refined, petite shapes to more exaggerated, grander styles.”

We are not talking about the chip-strapped Pillbox worn in the army, typical of the Commonwealth headgear. We are talking about a small woman’s hat with a flat crown and straight, upright sides; the one that inspired the ironic Bob Dylan 1966 song, Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat, which goes like this:

Well, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Yes, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Well, you must tell me, baby
How your head feels under somethin’ like that
Under your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat

Well, you look so pretty in it
Honey, can I jump on it sometime?
Yes, I just wanna see
If it’s really that expensive kind
You know it balances on your head
Just like a mattress balances
On a bottle of wine
Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat

Well, if you wanna see the sun rise
Honey, I know where
We’ll go out and see it sometime
We’ll both just sit there and stare
Me with my belt
Wrapped around my head
And you just sittin’ there
In your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat

Well, I asked the doctor if I could see you
It’s bad for your health, he said
Yes, I disobeyed his orders
I came to see you
But I found him there instead
You know, I don’t mind him cheatin’ on me
But I sure wish he’d take that off his head
Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat

Well, I see you got a new boyfriend
You know, I never seen him before
Well, I saw him
Makin’ love to you
You forgot to close the garage door
You might think he loves you for your money
But I know what he really loves you for
It’s your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat

Mister Tambourine Man took the Pillbox hat, and smashed to the point of putting it in its most degusting and cheesiest level. But that was ages ago, and now the Pillbox emerges as a new, refreshing thing, something both subtle and neat. “If you live long enough, everything comes back into style,” says the adage, and the Pillbox proofs that to Mister Dylan.

 

Victoria Beckham arrives in LA

The Beckhams are not going through their best times these days.

The guy, David, is slowly becoming a depressing, good-looking soccer player. Now that he’s missed the last games his team has played, they are finally winning some, like yesterday, when Mike Magee led a Beckham-less Galaxy 2-0 beat over the Chicago Fire, which made Galaxy move past Seattle into second place in the Western Conference, five points behind first-place Houston. The thing is that baby boy Becks doesn’t want to be in this team. He thinks he deserves more. He thinks he still is a soccer player, rather than a Hollywood marketing object. That’s why he wants to play for the AC Milan, a team (Berlusconi’s) in crisis full of old fat stars. But they don’t want him very much. So there he is: in limbo.

What about the girl, Mrs. Posh? Well, the girl is wearing the most horrible, ridiculous hat available in the market. Let’s quote someone to not sound arbitrary:

Victoria Beckham was busy showing how ahead of the fashion curve she really is by wearing a hat with a zip on it. She’s like the modern day, British equivalent of Coco Chanel… Posh had just touched down in LA with son Romeo to display her trademark vacant look, stork-like legs and her new tattoo. Apparently she got the Hebrew phrase ‘together forever, eternally’ inked on her wrist to mark her 10th anniversary of her marriage to David.

And when she’s ready collapse, now that she must weigh less than her seven-year-old son, there’s enough space for two of her inside that Hermes handbag….

We agree. Sometimes fashion has a reason, sometimes it doesn’t. Because we could bash on the absurd purpose of a zip in a hat, but usefulness in fashion is not necessarily the objective. Rather, the problem is that the hat with the zip simply looks hideous, tasteless, tactless, silly. Again, I don’t want to sound capricious, so to finish with, let’s quote another interpretations of the events:

She’s trying to distract us from the fact that her six year old son is wearing a hat expressing his appreciation for beer. She tried to stop Romeo from wearing it, but he said “But Muuuum, look at what’s on your head – you look way stupider than me” and she didn’t have the energy to win the argument, what with it being six days since she last ate some lettuce.


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Now that the legend is back, let’s please pay tribute to him. To put it mildly, he is the most influential musician of the post-Sinatra generation, not only music wise, but also hat wise. Like El Padrino, Cohen wears a black felt fedora with short brim and a slightly darker band. We’ve seen him with a beret several times, yes, as we notice in this cartoon that advertised the photo exhibition on him at the LindaLando Fine Art gallery in Vancuver last December. However, it’s the Sinatra-esque fedora the one hat that immortalized mister Leonard Cohen. As we see both in this picture and in the video recorded two days ago in his concert in Colmar, France.

The according-to-Lou-Reed “highest and most influential echelon of songwriters” is coming next October 25th to New York, which is why, by the way, The New Yorker published a piece on him last Monday. Let’s not only pay tribute to one of the most significant hotshots of the hat tradition, let’s read about him and go and see him. 

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Therefore a crown.

Yes, we are talking about the extended article published yesterday in The New Yorker on New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the one and only Lord of this town who is not only running (and winning) his third Mayor election next November, but also thinking about running again in 2012, as he implied in his radio show yesterday morning. What the rigorous profile by Ben McGrath tells us is not very new, which is that, overall, our feudal lord has bought off a lot of criticism and that his arrogance has shut more than one journalist.

Traditional of the New Yorker, however, the piece comes with a sharp, witty cartoon by Gerald Scarfe, the man who created the aesthetic of Pink Floyd’s The Wall (both album and movie) and was the production designer of Disney’s Hercules. So we’re not talking about some random cartoonist, but about one of The New Yorker’s best. This time, the British presents us the complementary cartoon of a slightly derogatory piece about Bloomberg. And the cartoon speaks by itself: the jokey, well-shaped crown, the shady face, the interaction of them two.

Bloomberg is throwing his hat again next November, and so did The New Yorker with this piece. Gerald Scarfe, on his part, created the only hat we want Bloomberg to wear: a rickety crown with a childish aesthetic. Good for Scarfe, bad for Bloomberg. 

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Three years ago, before the purchase of the diary by Rupert Murdoch in 2007, we wouldn’t have had the pleasure to read this type of piece in the Wall Street Journal. It was too narrow, too finance-focused, and maybe a bit too seriousness-obsessed, to publish an article about the history of hats. And even though the development of the piece published this weekend in the Journal is not very pretentious, it is quite satisfying to see that such Institution is telling the story of the indisputable truth this blog is trying to enlarge: hats are back in the ring.

The piece, titled “The Latest Hat Craze”, begins with a nice reference to a not-necessarily current trend, which is the fact that wide brims are not very fashionable.

The so-called stingy-brim hat, with a brim 1½ inches wide, is considered more modern than those carrying standard 2½-inch widths, and straw versions have been big sellers this summer. “Our stingy brims are extremely strong right now,” says Don Rongione, chief executive of Bollman Hat, whose brands include Bailey and Kangol.

Trilbies, soft brimmed hats that sit just above the brow, and hats with an extreme pinch in the front or a colorful band are also popular. “Trilbies make up for approximately 30% of our hat range and sales continue to be strong year on year,”says Topman design director Gordon Richardson. “Most popular is our short-brimmed trilby, which is a young fashion take on a regular trilby.”

Then, it tells the history of the hat: 

Among the first hats distinguished by having a brim was the felt petasus or petasos of the Greeks and Romans, which tied under the chin, according to menswear historian Andy Gilchrist. In the 1600s, two types dominated: a low-crowned hat with a broad brim and a high-crowned, round hat made of beaver.

In 1797, English haberdasher John Hetherington made hat history by donning a beaver-fur felt hat so tall he was reportedly arrested for disturbing the peace. He was released and the top hat became the rage, says Alyce Cornyn-Selby, curator of the Hat Museum in Portland, Ore.

In the 19th century, new styles proliferated. There was the emergence of the Panama straw hat: Though they were made in Ecuador, the hat got its name via its passage through Panama, according to Tom Miller’s 1986 book “The Panama Hat Trail.” The hat’s popularity spread when the U.S. Army purchased 50,000 for soldiers to wear during the Spanish-American War and when Gold Rush prospectors used the hats for sun protection, Mr. Miller says.

In 1850 William Coke, a prominent landowner and farmer, commissioned a London hat shop to make a sturdy low-crowned hat to protect his gamekeepers’ heads from overhanging tree branches. Cheaper to produce than top hats, the bowler quickly became the hat of choice for men of all economic backgrounds, Ms. Cornyn-Selby says. In the 1889 version of French play “Fedora,” actress Sarah Bernhardt became the first woman to don one, popularizing the fedora with women.

By the 20th century, movie stars such as Gary Cooper and Humphrey Bogart were popularizing men’s fedoras, which remained in vogue throughout the 40s and 50s. 

Then the hats came off. “It’s fair to say [male hat wearing] declined in the 60s as longer hairstyles came into vogue,” says Bollman’s Mr. Rongione, who is also a former head of the Headwear Association. “Some attribute the decline to the automotive industry, the lower roofs in cars. Some say men who returned from World War II didn’t want to wear things on their head” after wearing helmets for so long. “Hatless Jack,” a 2004 book lamenting the decline, examines whether a hatless John F. Kennedy accelerated the trend.

Four decades later, menswear designers were flocking to retro-dandy looks. Giorgio Armani and Prada topped their models with brimmed hats for their Spring/Summer 2005 shows. A year later, brimmed hats turned up on the runways of Dior Homme and Yohji Yamamoto.

Soon, hats were appearing on the head of British rocker Pete Doherty and on the ’60s-era show “Mad Men,” says Michael Fisher, men’s editor at trend forecaster Stylesight. Initially limited to fashion-forward men who would don them with skinny jeans, their popularity has widened to a much broader swath of casual fashion-watchers, reflecting the growing willingness of men to adopt more stylish looks and accessories from the past.

“We wanted to add a touch of sophisticated modern classicism,” says Alessandro Sartori, creative director of Z Zegna, the sibling of Ermenegildo Zegna, which included hats in its Fall 2009 show.

In spite of the quality of the article written by Ray Smith, one of its commentators points out a revealing, yet obvious, fact: the history of the hat is not only the history of men’s hats. True is that women before the ‘60s fashion revolution didn’t wear hats very likely, since it was a symbol of the power and distinction manhood represented in society. However, now that this difference between men and women is extinct, women are an important reference of (to and for) the hat industry. Furthermore, this increasing restoration of the hat wearing is, in part, thanks to women and their outstanding use of it.

So it’s not only that hats are back on the street, as the Journal skillfully argues, but also that they are now an accessory designed for the whole of the population. With peculiarities, yes, with simplicities and differences, but made for every single resident of the world who wants to cover his or her brain in order to stand out over the others.

Oh, and please, don’t miss the slide show complementary to the article

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How much are you willing to pay for a hat? Well, as we all know, there are people for everything in this world. Even, for instance, people who bash about an expensive hat just because it’s expensive, which is the case of thelifefiles.com, a fashion blog that published today a derogatory post about a one-hundred-thousand-dollar, hand-woven straw Panama hat that was commissioned by Brent Black to Simón Espinal, an Ecuadorian waiver who has been labeled as the best weaver in the world.

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The post presents the Montecristi Panama as ‘The Hat’ and under the picture writes, “We’re sure it’s weaved in some heavenly straw…BUT C’MON”.

One of the problems with hats in recent years is that they haven’t been taken seriously. Or, even more likely, that they’ve been taken as an accessory that doesn’t deserve more than a few bucks, one that is both casual and informal. We aren’t here to predict neither of both perspectives; you buy and wear what you want. Rather, we are here to ask for some sort of respect to a millennial tradition that, by the way, provides a life to people in foreign countries, which is actually the case of Mr. Espinal in Ecuador. The mistake of thelifefiles.com is not to let us know their opinion about the price of a hat, but to misestimate the work of an artist, a hardworking, talented artist. 

You, Resident of The World of Free Will, can choose a 12-dollar straw hat at St Marks Place in New York City or a 100 thousand-dollar one like this one. Whatever you do, however, just take into account that you get what you pay, and that the Hat thelifefiles.com is bashing of is part of a folkloric institution.

A hat is not just a hat, it’s a cultural symbol.

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(Pictures taken from brentblack.com)