There are several men of renown and influence who are identified with their hats. One of them is Abraham Lincoln, arguably America‘s greatest president. A popular photo of President Lincoln wearing a stovepipe hat burned into the collective consciousness of a nation struggling to keep its head above water during the Civil War, a period that threatened to destroy the United States of America. In this image Lincoln was standing tall, his 6 feet and four inches frame towered over others. But because of his top hat, his lanky figure was highlighted even more.
President Lincoln’s favorite headgear was a top hat, otherwise known as the stovepipe hat. It creates a deep sense of formality and sophistication. It is not only a piece of haberdashery purchased to protect the head from the heat of the sun or as a covering against rain and dust. It is a status symbol and used to send a message on how the wearer wants to be treated by others. In the case of Lincoln he used it to command respect.
Lincoln‘s top hat sends a clear message to every person that he met. Most stovepipes are eight inches in length. If you will add this to his height, then, every time he wore the top hat, he seems to look like one foot taller. He must have been an imposing figure every time he towers over his friends, supporters, acquaintances, and even his political rivals. The top hat was part of his persona and without a doubt it played no small role in his success as a politician。
Ronald Reagan and His Stetson Cowboy Hat
In his first attempt to conquer the White House, Ronald Reagan, the former actor and Governor of California, lost to Gerald Ford in the Republican Party’s presidential primaries. In his second attempt in 1980, he was chosen as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate. At the start of the presidential campaign, his supporters created a poster for the Reagan campaign. The image was a powerful one and in it Reagan was shown wearing a Stetson cowboy hat.
Identifying with the Common Man
Looking back, the image of a presidential candidate with a cowboy hat was instrumental in Reagan‘s successful bid to win the presidency. His supporters and advisers were correct to market him to the voters as an outsider and someone who can identify with the common people.
The huge impact of the campaign poster was due in large part to the Stetson hat and what it means to America. Legend has it that a Philadelphia hat maker named John Batterson Stetson came West to seek a cure for his ailment. After spending several weeks soaking in the Western weather, he realized that his small brimmed hat was not appropriate for the task at hand. J.B. Stetson decided to make a felt hat made out of rabbit and beaver fur. He made a big hat, one that could shelter him from rain, hail, and snow. His hat suited the big country.
While resting a cowboy came along and offered to buy his hat. After he went home the image of the cowboy paying a good price for his hat did not leave him. Stetson decided to manufacture the same big cowboy hat and sent samples to dealers in the West. After a few months Stetson was overwhelmed by the demand for his cowboy hats. It became a part of American culture and Reagan knew it.