How Future Reclaimed the Pop Music Hat from its Devotees
The Atlanta rapper has made one of the worst looks in the history of popular music cool. The Inverse staff traces the long lineage of bad hats in which he's interceded.
Future announced some welcome news yesterday.
During the leadup to the release of his instant classic and No. 1-charting album, Dirty Sprite 2, the Atlanta rapper committed in earnest to a refreshing new hat guy look. He’s generally favored Stetson and floppy 19th-century-peasant hats, though he’s also appropriated and exalted the aging-hair-or-metal-dude-goes-country straw hat.
Future is even making this look something of a fad in hip-hop (forget about that other guy). Young Thug, most notably, has been rocking jaunty big-brimmed hats on the regular (see the straight-outta-The-Crucible/village sexton look Thugger is rocking in his new video).
But the most important ramification of Future’s look is that he is redeeming a long and insidious tradition of pop and rock star hat-wearing. The biggest offenders have been older, troubled rock stars, who are searching to find a cool, “authentic” new vibe, wanting to actually make country music or just cover their bald spot. Increasingly, though, we’re seeing big-brimmed hat guys of all ages infiltrating the scene. The Inverse staff takes a long look at some of the worst in the lineage of hats Future is boldly stepping into.
Winston Cook-Wilson: In a way, I would trace the problem back to the country-comfort/ecclesiastical/”authentic” hats of the late ‘60s. The Band, of course, were the progenitors, departing from the flower-power look of the day to adopt the look of farmers in the Ozarks and Jehovah’s witnesses. Due to the commensurate style of their music, and the fact that they had one real-life country boy in the band, they were somehow able to pull it off. A year or so later, however, John Lennon would define the Abbey Road-era Beatles aesthetic with this type of outfit, and change the history of rock star hats forever:
Lennon was actually a pretty serious hat offender, especially in later years:
Countless hats — on the spectrum between disappointing and evil — would follow. Cut to stuff like Elvis Costello’s various sometimes-befeathered prohibition-era-pimp/urban-cowpunch look we’ve been inundated with for decades now:
Your kids go off to college and you get this kind of thing:
Corban Goble: In a sense, hats denote a certain status. For instance, take James Taylor wearing the kind of cowboy hat that LBJ donned:
Other rockers not entirely known for wearing hats in their younger days almost instinctively lean into a brimmed hat as they mature. Another example:
Not all icons can pull off a hat, and some wannabe icons — Jack White, ahem ahem — are hoping to game the system and gun for the “latter years Bob Dylan” hat lifestyle to backwards engineer legendary careers. It’s not that simple.
David Turner: Jack White is still in his early years of terrible hats, if this were a draft, he’d certainly be a sleeper pick. And to keep on that particular lane, I’d say that Justin Timberlake in the early ’00s showed a pension for terrible hats, but at least right now, he’s matured.
Yet I’ll say give him a couple more decades and a Vegas act then — BAM — the hats will be legendarily terrible.
I want to call attention to Patti Smith, a rock icon who right now appears to be struggling with the eternal question of whether “The hat wears the person” or if “The person wears the hat.”
I’m not sure what is the answer to the question here, maybe this is the real “The Dress” of our time. Is it Patti Smith’s hat or is the Hat’s Patti Smith?
And my last contribution is simple, Conor Oberst. Folk hero. American Hero. Hat God.
Matthew Strauss: You’re all dwelling on the past. “At Inverse, we obsess over one question: What could happen next?” The only answer: new hat icons.
New Hat Icon No. 1: Justin “Hat-Wearing Guy” Bieber. He’s transitioned seamlessly from
in no time. What he does, the kids follow.
New Hat Icon No. 2: Raury, “Wide-Brim-Hat-Guy Guy.” Raury is probably doing the best job of carrying the tradition of WTF hats. In his brief career, he has never not worn his straw hat. Forever maintaining the #brand.
Neel Patel: “A Caucasian man wearing a bucket hat strums a guitar.” Literally the caption for the first image you see on Jason Mraz’s Wikipedia page.
WCW: Finally, dear reader, we leave you with this song. Be sure to stare intently at the central image while you listen, which screams (as Corban puts it) “John Mayer Googles Montana.”