What’s Pharrell’s Hat Really Worth?
For the past few weeks post Grammy buzz hasn’t centered on winning acceptance speeches, slighted losers, or even theatrical performances. The topic of conversation has been centered on a hat. To be precise, a Canadian Mountie style hat donned by Pharrell. The high crowned hat, with its unusual indentations, placed him in the spotlight. When he took the stage the mixed responses from the live audience and at-home viewers wearing the said chapeau set the social media world ablaze long after the show’s closing credits. And just when you thought that the hat buzz was dying down Pharrell announced that he was auctioning off his show-stopping hat. E-Bay bids recently reached $44,100 (from Arby’s) and folks are starting to wonder… What’s Pharrell’s Hat Really Worth?
In order to place a value on Pharrell’s hat, or any other statement-making hat for that matter, you have to understand that hats are far more than an accessory. They are historically steeped in our survival, culture, identity, and self-expression.
We’ve worn head coverings for centuries. Magnificent Egyptian headdresses, designed for Pharaohs, symbolized regional control, religious rituals, and victory in battle. First Nation Peoples wore warm pelts to fend off nature’s icy brew of wind and snow. In the roaring nineteen-twenties flappers rebelliously cut their hair and donned the cloche. Aviator hats became popular in the early twentieth century with the rise of open-cock-pit airplanes. And breakdancers proudly wore bucket hats while performing the uprock and headspin.
Just as human beings have evolved over time so too have various hat styles, their gender specifications, and their use. The beloved fedora, over a century old, is an excellent example of this. Recognizable by its tall crown, pinched front (on both sides) and creased centre dent, was first worn by women and made popular by actor Sara Bernhardt in the late 1880s – starring as Princess Fedora in Victorien Sardou’s (French) play Fedora. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that the said chapeau became a popular men’s accessory.
Long before Pharrell, hats have sparked heated social debate and been subject to social convention. Hat wearing declined due to the strict social etiquette surrounding the accessory during the 1950s and early the 1960s. At that time they were more or less mandatory and so a generation wanting nothing to do with their parents’ conventions and values, opted out of wearing the accessory. In the late 1960s they became popularized again by artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan. Their songs of liberation, larger-than-life personas and rebellious messages re-catapulted the hat back to its place of significance.
Regardless of the historical moment or particular context, hats have always been a cultural artifact of sorts bound up in social capital, expression, and meaning. Just as we figuratively “switch” hats in various areas of their lives, hats allow us to express different parts of our personality. When sunning at the beach a wider brim may be preferred, a weekend brunch in the city may call for a gatsby cap, and a fedora can complete business meeting attire or paired with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt for a concert. With the proceeds of Pharrell’s statement-making hat going towards his youth charity, I know that hat is worth every single penny.
Guest Blog Post by Dameion Royes, original founder of Toronto’s BIG IT UP and BRIMZ, which includes their in-house label and also supports TO’s local designers.