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Hatless Jack Paperback – November 30, 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Telling a historical tale about hats, the hat industry, and male hat wearing customs the author spends most of his time in the era of JFK mainly because most fashion historians identify this period as the demise of hat wearing as a cultural imperative in the western world.
During this journey we are pleasantly led back and forward through history for many interesting and valuable anecdotes on hat culture and history. Once the journey is complete the reader is much more versed in hat culture than simply reading a "how to" book about wearing hats. He leaves with a gut understanding of why a "gentleman" would go to all the trouble and expense of wearing "fine" headwear and a more than inquisitive yearning to join the dwindling fraternity of men who live in felt & straw hats.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
more about the hat industry than JFK, but still a good readPublished 23 months ago by Treasure Collector
I can't distinguish between Trilby's and Fedoras, I'm not sure I want to. They may even be the same thing. Read morePublished on March 26, 2008 by Hugh Claffey
I started wearing these kinds of hats just under a year ago. Having no background with such hats (my parents didn't either, I don't think), I was able to pick up quite a bit of... Read morePublished on January 3, 2007 by Chuck Burgess
In our business there is an awful lot of hand-wringing about the good old days when all well-dressed men wore hats. Read morePublished on December 11, 2005 by Fred Belinsky
After he had worked in America for a couple years, my grandfather had his picture taken for the folks back home, to show he "had arrived. Read morePublished on April 18, 2005 by G. B. Talovich
Why didn't JFK wear a hat to his inauguration?
This mystery has intrigued us for four decades, and the answer is at hand in this wonderful little book. Read more