Tuesday, January 28, 2014
The real winner of the Grammys was Pharrell’s hat, and now designer Vivienne Westwood is winning too. After the hat was identified as a style introduced by Westwood in 1982 and featured in the video for Malcolm McLaren’s early hip-hop classic “Buffalo Gals,” the website for Westwood’s online World’s End shop crashed because of heavy traffic.
The Cut blog reported that Westwood’s only U.S. store was flooded with calls and, due to demand:
“A limited-edition run of the hat will be sold there beginning in mid-February; the hats will be sold in black and brown for $180, and can apparently be pre-ordered now by calling the boutique.”
Previously, the hat had only been available online.
Is this the end of the road for the much-easier-to-wear Heisenberg hat? Alas! That’s a good-looking hat.
A limited run of “Heisenberg” porkpie hats – the signature look of Breaking Bad‘s meth-dealing anti-hero Walter White, aka Heisenberg — caused a frenzy last September, ahead of Breaking Bad‘s series finale. As the Wall Street Journal reported, customers lined up outside the Goorin Bros. Hat Shop in New York City’s West Village to get their hands on one of the hats.
For Breaking Bad fans who missed out, I offered a Heisenberg hat earring. (I still have a few available!)
Until the mid-20th century, men always wore hats, and not of the snapback variety. Serious hats. John F. Kennedy is usually held responsible for killing off the U.S. hat industry by appearing at his 1961 presidential inauguration hatless, but lo and behold! Snopes.com has photos of JFK wearing the traditional top hat for most of the ceremonial activities.
The president did take off his hat for his inaugural address and left it on his chair, but he put it back on for the rest of the day. Snopes.com calls JFK’s hat-murdering reputation “an article of faith which has become an accepted ‘fact’ through sheer repetition.” The site acknowledges that Kennedy almost never wore a hat after that, but calls the hatlessness the continuation of a trend that had begun before him. One of the pre-Kennedy hat avoiders was Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was the real radical, flouting presidential tradition by wearing a homburg instead of a top hat at his 1953 inauguration, and, even then, not wearing the homburg much at all. This perspective jibes with a 2012 NPR story by Robert Krulwich, the son of a hat designer. Put the blame on Mamie’s husband!
While Pharrell’s hat has gone from laughingstock to coveted item, I’m still laughing at The Cut’s revealing headline for its post on the hat’s Westwood origin: “Pharrell’s Grammys Hat Actually Not So Ridiculous.” I’ve pointed out before that provenance means a lot. My amusement with the “not so ridiculous” verdict comes from my 2008 experience with a certain fashion publication’s “Disaster Area” page.
I’ve always said that if anyone had been knowledgeable enough to recognize that I was wearing a Patrick Kelly gown, s/he would have stopped me to get a better angle and photo and probably offer a compliment. The right label makes crazy clothes “safe.” Even though I thought it was High!Larious! to be on a fashion disaster page — and I have worn some of my stranger clothes HOPING to make it again — I kinda pitied the fashion experts who didn’t recognize a Kelly when they saw one. You know who did recognize the dress instantly at 2010 event? Bill Cunningham of the New York Times. That man KNOWS fashion. I bet he can identify the work of any designer of the 20th century.
In addition to proving the importance of provenance, Pharrell’s hat explains why designers are willing to give things to celebrities for red-carpet exposure (though, in this case, Pharrell bought his own hat). Does anyone still not understand that? If Joe Schmoe were wearing the hat on Main Street, Anytown, USA, Westwood wouldn’t need to churn out new hat inventory. But Pharrell’s hat grabbing ALL the attention at the Grammys in front of 28.5 million people? A hat that was more buzzworthy than Daft Punk’s face-obscuring helmets, worn during what was only their second-ever live television performance? That kind of attention sells a lot of fucking hats. Still, a designer has to be choosy about what celebrities to work with and consider what kind of exposure they’ll provide. A television actress who was angling for a freebie from me recently was sent away empty-handed. But if Miley Cyrus wants my silver TWERK necklace — all she has to do is call!