The fedora has never made a comeback. The big hat-makers never forgave John F. Kennedy for appearing at his inauguration bare-headed, thus permanently ruining their business by making hatless a popular style for men.
Now only two kinds of folk wear hats as a matter of course. There are those over 70 who find it hard to break a habit drummed in since childhood. They are the people who were shocked to the core when President Kennedy went bareheaded at his inauguration, ushering in a brave new hatless era.
He, like many others, credits the demise of the hat as everyday apparel to John F. Kennedy. Before
Why did hats come off? Folklore has it that after six years in uniform during the Second World War, young men had had enough of hats. Then, the young John F Kennedy turned up for his inauguration as President on a bitterly cold January afternoon without a hat.
Origins: The "John F. Kennedy killed the American hat industry" legend is — like the "Clark Gable killed the men's undershirt industry" legend — an article of faith which has become an accepted "fact" through sheer repetition, rarely questioned by those who cite it. Normally we'd call for someone to produce statistics to demonstrate that men's hat sales really declined sharply just after Kennedy's inauguration, and to demonstrate that Kennedy was not merely one of millions of American men following a trend that had actually begun before his inauguration. In this case that call isn't necessary, however, because the premise is flawed: Kennedy wasn't hatless at his inauguration, and we have to wonder whether all the journalists who attended the ceremony and now claim he was bare-headed were paying attention. Kennedy wore the traditional silk topper all throughout his inaugural day, and the evidence that he did so isn't hard to find.
According to the Washington Post's contemporary coverage of the 1961 inaugural ceremonies, President-elect Kennedy was wearing a hat as he made the trip to the White House to meet with President Eisenhower prior to his swearing-in:
Both men were still hatted as they arrived at the Capitol Building and made their way to the East Portico:
Once again according to the Washington Post's coverage, Kennedy was wearing his hat as he arrived at the inaugural stand on the East Portico of the U.S. Capitol:
President Eisenhower had moved onto the scene at 12:09 as the United States Marine Band played "Hail to the Chief," a piece he was hearing for the last time in his own honor.
When the outgoing President and his successor were finally seated alongside each other, they doffed their silk hats and began an animated conversation.
As the newly sworn-in 35th President of the United States arrives to take his place next to Vice-President Johnson on the reviewing stand for the inaugural parade, he's once again wearing his top hat:
The new president's head is still covered later that evening as he attends an inaugural ball at the Armory:
In fact, Kennedy actually revived an inaugural hat-wearing tradition. President Harry S Truman and Vice-President Alben Barkley both donned the usual silk toppers for Truman's inauguration in 1949:
But Truman's successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who frequently went hatless throughout his eight years in office, wore a homburg rather than top hat to his 1953 inauguration, and even that was little-seen by the crowds in Washington that day, according to the Washington Post:
Actually, the crowds along the Avenue saw little or nothing of the homburgs as the two men rode toward the Capitol, followed by
Last updated: 27 September 2007
Ambrose, Stephen E. Eisenhower: The President. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984. ISBN 0-671-49901-4. Faber, Harold. The Kennedy Years. New York: Viking Press, 1964. Folliard, Edward T. "Ike Takes Helm in a 'Time of Tempest.'" The Washington Post. 21 January 1953 (p. A1). Folliard, Edward T. "Kennedy Takes Oath as President." The Washington Post. 21 January 1961 (p. A1). Kunhardt Jr., Philip B. LIFE in Camelot: The Kennedy Years. Boston: Little, Brown, 1988. ISBN 0-316-21089-7. McCullough, David. Truman. New York: Touchstone Books, 1993. ISBN 0-671-86920-5. Mills, Judie. John F. Kennedy. New York: Franklin Watts, 1988. ISBN 0-531-10520-2. Reeves, Richard. President Kennedy: Profile of Power. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. ISBN 0-671-64879-9.