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Hatless Jack Paperback – November 30, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (November 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452285232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452285231
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #879,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Besides being a fascinating sociological story, Steinberg's book is also a treasure trove of presidential trivia. -- The Boston Globe

About the Author

Neil Steinberg is a columnist and editorial board member at the Chicago Sun-Times. He has written for many national publications, including Rolling Stone, Readers’ Digest, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated. This is his fifth book.

Customer Reviews

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See all 12 customer reviews
I was pleasantly surprised by how much this little book captivated me.
Peter Padro
It's full of humor, insight and intelligence--a great book, for Kennedy enthusiasts, fashionistas, or anyone interested in a good read.
William Savage
In our business there is an awful lot of hand-wringing about the good old days when all well-dressed men wore hats.
Fred Belinsky

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 3, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'll never look at the top hat, from which the magician conjures the bunny, in the same way ever again.

HATLESS JACK is one of those fascinating treatises about a subject with which you wouldn't otherwise think to concern yourself. In this case, it's men's hats - Stetsons, derbies, fedoras, straw boaters, toppers - and the history, customs, etiquette, and practical pitfalls surrounding their use in America . More importantly, the book examines the demise of the hat as a necessary component of the well-dressed man's wardrobe. As the title implies, the disappearance of the hat from American male fashion can perhaps be largely attributed to President John Kennedy's aversion to wearing such. In debunking this theory, author Neil Steinberg, while incidentally writing an engaging (albeit superficial) narrative about America's youngest President, traces the decline of fashionable headgear back to the 1890's when female theater patrons found it obliging to remove their large and elaborate hats so people sitting behind could see the stage. From there, despite the heyday of fedoras and straw hats in the 1920s, it was all downhill, much to the consternation of the nation's hatmakers.

HATLESS JACK is also a compendium of historically interesting trivia. Did you know that the Hat Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1732, forbade American colonists from selling hats abroad or to each other, as well as the physical conveyance of hats by boat or horse? Or that the wearing of summer straw hats beyond September 15th could cause social unrest to the extent of rioting in the streets? Or that hatcheck girls of the 20s and 30s occupied a social position "halfway between a sister and a slut"?

HATLESS JACK cries out for a photo section; its sole deficiency is that it has none.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Andrew S. Rogers VINE VOICE on May 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
I'm of two minds about this book. Neil Steinberg has produced a great history of the form and content of hat-wearing, and the decline of the behatted male in the United States. I learned a great deal about the industry, the importance of hats to the idea of the well-dressed man, and the many forces that came together to send the noble fedora and its cousins into their long decline. And also about John F. Kennedy.

But while the author has done a fine job with the facts, I'm still not sure I buy all his interpretation of them. He strikes me as far too willing to buy into the cliché -- true in its most basic form, perhaps, but far too exaggerated in the popular mind -- of the dull, conformist, gray 1950s and the lively, individualist, color-saturated '60s.

Perhaps he should, as the Randians would say, check his premises -- particularly his evident assumption that informality equals authenticity and self-expression. But if it is "conformist" for a man to wear a hat at a time when all men wear hats, why is it a sign of rebellious nonconformity to abandon hats when all men are abandoning them? Are we really any more individualist today, when forty-something men go to the mall dressed in the same long t-shirts, baggy shorts, and giant sneakers worn by their twelve year old sons? If you want to demonstrate individuality and self-expression through your dress today, gentlemen, the best way to do so is with suit, tie, and a well-maintained snap-brim. But, check out this book first to make sure you know when to tip the fedora, and to whom.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Hugh Claffey on March 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
I can't distinguish between Trilby's and Fedoras, I'm not sure I want to. They may even be the same thing. I was born in the same year that President Kennedy was assassinated, and I didn't know that there was a generally held belief that, because he didn't wear a hat at his inauguration, that he was responsible for the worldwide decline in hat wearing. Steinberg's book shows that this proposition is untrue on two counts - that hat wearing was declining throughout the Twentieth Century, and that, in fact, President Kennedy did wear a hat during his inauguration - in the procession up to it, tipping it to his father, and in the parade after it - but not in the memorable portions of it.
Steinberg's book accumulates a significant amount of information that might be classified as social history or even incidental detail - the change in fashion for hats from top hats to less formal attire; the expense of owning a hat - hat check stalls were leased out by hotels and restaurants, and the leasees were accused of keeping both the fees and the tips; the vain, though valiant efforts, of hat companies to fight the tide of hatless-ness.
He counters the view that hatless-ness was inevitable, pointing out that tie-wearing could be seen as equally obsolete and yet continued through the twentieth century. I think he's on thin ice with this argument, given the increasing popularity of `smart-casual' tieless-ness and `dress down Friday's'.
The book also paints a picture of how Kennedy represented youth, vigour and change in 1960. His bareheadedness was part of this, so, apparently were the two-button suits which he favoured.
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