The Cat In The Hats
A recent flurry of posts at Heck Of A Guy and the DrHGuy site focusing on Leonard Cohen’s accoutrements – including his boots and other footwear,1 sunglasses, tobacco products and smoking accessories, and, of course, his guns – has inevitably led to requests for a post featuring the headgear worn by the Canadian singer-songwriter.
Of course, Leonard Cohen’s chapeaux have hardly gone unnoticed in these pages. The image atop this post, which displays Mr Cohen wearing a slouch cap, a beret, and a cowboy hat as well as doffing and wearing the fedora which became was his trademark during the 2008-2010 World Tour, is from Leonard Cohen World Tour Predictions For 2010.2 Still, a consolidation of the Cohen headgear theme seems worthwhile. Consequently, today’s post focuses on …
That Fedora Leonard Cohen Wears
The Merriam-Webster definition of fedora follows: “a low soft felt hat with the crown creased lengthwise.” Most sources offer congruent specifications. Some are more precise. Wikipedia, for example, differentiates the trilby, which Miriam-Webster defines as “a soft felt hat with indented crown” (i.e., indistinguishable from a fedora), from the fedora: “A trilby hat is similar to a fedora, but typically has a narrower brim, and the back of the brim is distinctively more sharply upturned as a result.” As will be noted, Heck Of A Guy takes a more casual approach, including under the aegis of fedora, hats constructed of materials other than felt on the grounds of (1) common usage (Google shows over 200,000 hits for “straw fedora”) and (2) invocation of blogger’s prerogative.
From Where Leonard Cohen Got That Hat, we learn
1. The source of some of Cohen’s fedoras. A question posed on LeonardCohenForum about the type of fedora Leonard Cohen has worn throughout the current World Tour triggered this reply from Hollywood Hatters1
To answer your questions in regards to where and what is the hat that Leonard has been wearing, it is in fact from our store; Hollywood Hatters. Leonard is a wonderful client of ours whom we have had the pleasure to serve for upwards of 5 years. The hat that he has been wearing on his current tour is a small brim, wool-felt fedora called “The Melodrama”. It is an American made hat that is available at our store in sizes SM – XLG and comes in black, gray, dark brown, light brown, navy, bone, green, ivory white, slate blue and plum.
2. Cohen wore more than one style of fedora in concert. Puddingdale, for example, pointed out the personal observation that the inside label of Cohen’s hat in Lörrach clearly read “Stetson.” The Melodrama should be considered the prototype fedora featured at many, albeit not all, 2008-2009 Cohen concerts, especially those held indoors.
Knowledgeable sources inform me that Cohen began the 2008 season wearing a Melodrama (see above) but at some point switched to a diamond crown, skinny brim for the remainder of the World Tour.
Leonard Cohen Live On Fedoras, Lawyers, … featured the video and transcript of an interview with Cohen by Brian D. Johnson (Maclean’s, June 12, 2008). The fedora-pertinent portion follows:
Q: Tell me about the hat.
A: I’ve been wearing a fedora for a long, long time. This particular hat is from a little hat store just opposite my daughter’s antique store in Los Angeles. They have a very good hat store there.
Q: You never used to perform with a hat.
A: I’ve never performed with a hat. But I always wore a hat. I started wearing the hat more and more, independent of these preparations. I stopped wearing a fedora after 9/11. I didn’t think it was appropriate to wear this kind of hat, and I switched to a cap.
A: I don’t really know. It seemed to be too dressed up for a situation that was closest to mourning than any other situation. So I didn’t feel like getting dressed up. I always wore a suit, but I stopped wearing a fedora after 9/11.
Q: It’s useful onstage. It allows you to pay homage. Doffing it to the audience and the band.
A: I started wearing it a lot around the house. I don’t go out much. But I usually get dressed every day.
That part of the interview occurs at the beginning of the video.
According to ‘Od’s Blog!,
In his current and recent tours, Leonard Cohen always appears on stage wearing a generous-brimmed fedora.
The photo at the right is offered in confirmation. The author then goes on to speculate that
The real reason he wears the hat is obvious. Leonard Cohen has become (or has long been) an Orthodox Jew.
Orthodox Jews, in line with the Halacha, traditionally keep their head covered at most if not all times. Even indoors, directly counter to the traditional Canadian practice.
Cohen’s “fedora” is in fact a black trilby, the most traditional style of hat among North American Orthodox Jews. The rest of his standard dress also conforms precisely to the traditional halachic norms: covered arms, covered legs, shirt buttoned at the throat, no view of skin below the neck, and black in colour.
He dresses like a Rabbi.
It is remarkable that no one has noticed this; it is a measure of just how out of touch mainstream culture has become with the single most important subject of all, religion.
Cohen, accordingly, is probably wise to dissemble on the point. He knows what happened to Bob Dylan when he went evangelical.
The full discussion is at the link.
The Fedora Lineage
The earliest image I’ve found of Cohen wearing a fedora may be this photo from the November 1968 Playboy (which I bought for articles like the one on Leonard Cohen). The subjunctive mode is necessary because my haberdashery expertise is too limited to confidently classify the headgear Leonard Cohen is sporting as a fedora. Whether it meets the technical criteria required for fedorahood or not, it is certainly in the spirit of the fedora.
A fedora is seen in this screen capture from Song Of Leonard Cohen, the documentary by Harry Rasky filmed in 1979 and 1980.
And another model is on display in this November 1980 photo by Alberto Manzano.
Fedoras Seen But Not Felt
Leonard Cohen chooses his headgear to fit the meteorological and social conditions.
One of those days when the hat doesn’t help – By Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen Intergalactic Tour poster by DrHGuy: First We Take Manhattan, Then We Take Alpha Centauri
Award Winning Fedora
The fedora Leonard Cohen placed in his chair while he gave his remarkable Prince Of Asturias Award speech.
Update: A post dedicated the headgear other than fedoras worn by Leonard Cohen can be found at Leonard Cohen’s Caps, Berets, & Cowboy Hats