A hundred years ago — and that’s when this picture was taken, in 1912 — men didn’t leave home without a hat. Boys wore caps. This is a socialist political rally in Union Square in Manhattan. There may be a bare head or two in this crowd, but I think those heads are women.
So what happened? Why did guys stop wearing headgear in mid-century America?
The turning point, most people say, was John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Before Kennedy, all presidents wore top hats on their first day at work. Kennedy brought one, but hardly ever put it on. Fashionistas say Kennedy, one of our most charismatic presidents, made hats un-happen. And, chronologically speaking, after JFK, guys everywhere, even balding ones like astronaut John Glenn, went topless. -Robert Krulwich
(Photo credit: The Library of Congress/via flickr)
Here’s a photo of JFK and Eisenhower, hats in hands.
Just in case you still haven’t decided on a proper chapeau for the Kentucky Derby…
We now present to you a Flickr collection from the Truman Library all about hats.
The Library has many photos of First Lady Bess Truman wearing hats, and the archivists culled their holdings for images of men and women in history wearing hats.
According to Bess’s best friend, Mary Paxton, “Bess had more stylish hats than the rest of us did, or she wore them with more style…” Here’s a photo of the BFFs, Bess and Mary in 1901. Bess is on the left, wearing a hat with a large ruffle and feather.
Bess Truman and the indestructable champagne bottle
For those of you who haven’t made it out to the Truman Library to see the film clip of this airplane christening, here’s a photo and story from our archives. Bess was supposed to swing the champagne bottle at the airplane, and it was supposed to shatter, showering the plane with champagne. However, the bottle hadn’t been scored to allow it to break easily, and Bess whacked at the plane eleven times; the bottle didn’t break. She finally got the bottle to break on the other plane, due to a Navy crewman hitting the bottle from underneath with a hammer. At the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri we have this hat in our museum collection and amazingly, it doesn’t smell like champagne.
This image of First Lady Bess Truman was taken on May 30th, 1945. Her daughter, Margaret Truman is beside her.