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Orrin Hatch: Obama's traded the hard hat for a 'hipster fedora'

February 29, 2012 |  3:45 pm

Max Baucus and Orrin Hatch

The hat seems to have become a political brickbat of sorts.

At least the "hipster fedora" has, thanks to a Feb. 29 comment made by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) during an energy policy debate on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

"President Obama has traded in the hard hat and lunch bucket category of the Democratic Party for a hipster fedora and a double-skim latte," he said, giving the distinct impression that the official chapeau of Williamsburg and Los Feliz was tantamount to donning a pickelhaube at a peace rally.

(On a side note to Hatch's speechwriters: It would have been infinitely better to go with "stingy-brim fedora" instead of "hipster fedora." The former sounds in-the-know, the latter makes him seem like an angry old man shaking his fist and yelling at the neighbor kids who won't stop playing ball in his yard.)

Sure, we know it was intended to be good, clean, election-year bloviation (for the record, we don't recall seeing Obama sporting any kind of lid lately), but it got us thinking: In this era of heightened hat sensitivity, what kind of hat could the president wear without alienating some segment of the electorate?

The cowboy hat seems too "last president" (and the two presidents before that), the beret too Che, the sombrero sends the wrong signal (two actually: pandering for the Latino vote and appearing pro-illegal immigration), and the top hat, in a nod to Lincoln, certainly seems presidential enough at first, but in reality it's just a monocle and a cartoon bag of money away from the 1%.

The fez? Too Shriner. The scholar's mortarboard? Too Ivy League faculty lounge. The pill-box hat? Too Jackie O. And, while it might be good fun to watch the president solve the mystery of the economy wearing the kind of deerstalker hunting hat popularized by Sherlock Holmes ("Elementary, my dear Biden"), he'd probably want to puff on a pipe like Holmes did, which would run afoul of the anti-smoking crowd.

The only logical option, then, would be the kind of good, old-fashioned, patriotic tricorne our founding fathers wore back in the day -- around the time they were dumping tea into Boston Harbor. There's no way that could send a mixed message, right?

Of course there are plenty of folks in the millinery business who wouldn't mind seeing Obama don a hipster fedora -- or a porkpie, trilby, bowler or tam o'shanter for that matter. In fact, in an interview about his new headgear line last year, Cedric the Entertainer singled out the commander in chief as someone who could single-headedly turn the hat business around.

"When JFK didn’t wear a hat, he kind of killed it from the presidential standpoint, right?" Ced opined at the time. "So all we need is for the president to start wearing a hat again and everyone will be: ‘OK, hats are back!'"


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Photo: Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), left, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) wearing cowboy hats at the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001. Credit: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press