In writer-director Ernst Lubitsch's 1939 film, Ninotchka, Greta Garbo plays Nina Yakushova, a tough-as-nails Stalinist envoy staying in Paris for a mission. On her trip, she and her accomplices pass a window display with a decadent hat inside. "How can such a civilization survive which permits their women to put things like that on their heads?" she scoffs.
Later in the film, it's revealed that she bought the hat and hid it away in her suite. When she tries it on in private, we know she's been seduced by Western flair and capitalism.
As Cameron Crowe tells it in the collection The First Time I Got Paid for It, Lubitsch came up with the idea during a fit of writer's block. "The hat is the answer," Lubitsch declared.
This depressing, depressionist Christmas, I could stand to get back in touch with roaring '20s (or even '90s) Western flamboyance. If Hank Paulson takes everything else — my job, my 401(k) and the clothes off my back — I will die, bloated and scruffy, in the back of a freight train, clutching one last remnant of my American dream.
I want a fedora.
Look at the grainy black-and-whites from the original Depression. The men in those long and winding lines to reclaim cash from a soon-to-be-defunct bank, or unemployment lines as far as the eye could see: They all kept their fedoras on, damn it. If nothing else, the hat was their answer.
I don't want just any hat, though; I'll take Paul Newman's from The Sting. Don Draper? Nah, man. Give me Jake Gittes. I'm going out in style. Sure, it'll look weird with my Target jeans and stained T-shirts, but you can't judge a man's choice of solace.
You won't find such a thing around these parts. The Orlando Vintage Clothing Co. (2117 W. Fairbanks Ave.) is a wonderful joint, but it's a fedora-free zone. Likewise Déjà Vu Vintage Clothing (1825 N. Orange Ave.); they recommend eBay for this particular item.
Instead, try www.thefedorastore.com, a specialty site exclusively for fedoras. They even custom-make them according to your specifications. Here are mine:
- Style: Beaver (Classic. Soft. Hilarious-sounding)
- Color: Charbrown
- Size: 7 7/8 (Yeah, that's right)
- Crown: Center dent pinch (center crease with dents and pinched front for dramatic exits)
- Brim edge: Underwelt (turned under and stitched) — $4 extra
- Brim size: 2 5/8 inch
- Stiffness: More stiff (uh-huh) — $2 extra
- Trim size: Matching 16 ligne ribbon hatband
- Bow style: Open Road/Stratoliner
What will my very own piece of last-gasp Americana cost?
$217.20. Pony up, comrades.
- TEXAS TURKEY TIME - Bob Whitby
- IRRATIONAL EXHUBERANCE - Jessica Bryce Young
- THE HAT IS THE ANSWER - Justin Strout
- LETTER FROM A BRIDGE - Deanna Morey
- THE DECEMBER REVOLUTION - T.I. Fraser
- I'LL BE FLOATING ABOVE YOUR HEAD - Billy Manes
- I, BITTER - Jeffrey C. Billman
- SILENT NIGHTS - Lindy Shepherd
- HOLIDAY CALENDAR 2008