Ian Whitcomb

Hats Off to JFK

Hatless Jack: The President, the Fedora and the Death of the Hat

By

Granta Books 342pp £12 order from our bookshop

I had no idea that there’s a sociology of hats. Does there also exist one of gloves, walking sticks, or underwear? I already own an edition of the century-old Illustrated History of the Rod and have derived much pleasure from it, if no edification. Such byways and back passages are a comfortable entry into hardcore history. In this case we are presented with an alternative window into that ever-hot personality President Kennedy, heroic Everyman of his age and the bane of the United Hatters’ International Union. Cheated by chance out of achieving much in his presidency, he was lucky to wear a crown of haystack hair. As with James Dean, death brought him glory, and his hatred of hats and casual schoolboy rejection of old-time dress codes place him squarely as a man of his time. He was the first American president to bare his hair and is blamed for destroying the hat trade. Yet he was actually following a trend of hatlessness that had started decades earlier.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,