The Death of the Hat in 1960

hat 773897
A few months ago we had dinner on San Francisco’s Fishermen’s Wharf with another couple, and I learned a lot that night about the man, Stan. We began talking about his father, with whom he has always had a stormy relationship, fraught with terrible fights, accusations, and a tangled web of debt and forgiveness.

“He was in the hat business,” Stan said. In the early ’60s his dad was in the wholesale and retail hat business in New York. Everybody wore hats in the ’40s and ’50s, and he decided one day to move out to Cleveland and buy a hat business. The store was right downtown, and business was good. Until the fateful January day in 1960 when the young President Kennedy didn’t wear a fedora on his walk from the Capital to the White House with Jackie. “My father hated JFK from that day on,” since nobody with style wanted to wear their fedoras any more as a result.

The hat store was later destroyed by looters one tense night of Cleveland’s race riots in the late ’60s. The hatter tried to defend his turf, but was overwhelmed the the place was ruined. “He was pictured on the front page of the Plain Dealer, raging against the people who wrecked his beloved store. Even though the city’s mayor offered him money, he never did rebuild that store, and later went on the road selling hats to department stores and small shops.”

To Stan’s credit, he was neither bitter nor angry about the many times his father had let him down, insulted him, and made him feel small. He just chalked it up to his personality. But it was clear to me that Stan’s own sons would never be let down nor scorned as he had once been.