The Borsalino hat, a wide-brimmed black felt fedora commonly worn by Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish sects, has now gotten trendy amongst hipster folks, the Times reports. Kids in Williamsburg are wearing them with skinny jeans and sneakers, and Cole Haan shot Trinidadian hip-hop artist Theophilus London (who is decidedly not Jewish) wearing his in their spring ad campaign. When the Times asked him about it, he answered:
“This one is from the Jewish store,” Mr. London said, motioning toward southern Williamsburg, where the haredi still outnumber the hipsters... “I liked the shape of it.”
Since then, it’s become a part of his urban uniform. He wears it to pick up dinner at his local roti shop, to parties at the Top of the Standard, and even onstage.
The Times is eager to probe the religious undertones of such sartorial choices, interviewing several academic experts about the hat's symbolic meaning in Jewish culture. After all, the blending of religion and fashion is always ripe for overanalysis. But one interviewee takes the wind out of everyone's sails by pointing out that everyone's wearing these hats for an entirely different reason altogether: Mad Men!
“I don’t think the yeshiva boys or the hipsters get their black hats from any kind of religious background,” said Maya Balakirsky Katz, who teaches art history at Touro College and is the author of “The Visual Culture of Chabad.” “It’s all from ‘Mad Men.’ In the ’50s, when the actual Mad Men were wearing Borsalinos, yeshiva students who were living in Manhattan said ‘Oh, this is how to acculturate.’ And that style is back in fashion again.”
We happen to think it's more likely that folks are wearing wide-brimmed hats because, in this gross rainy weather, you want to wear the closest thing to an umbrella on your head.