The billionaire posed for Vogue’s tribute to his fiancee Lauren Sánchez wearing his favorite hat. It was a little throwback to 2021, when he wore a cowboy hat during his first trip into space aboard a Blue Origin rocket.
People hated it at the time – the San Francisco Chronicle wondered, “Did Jeff Bezos just ruin cowboy hats for everyone?” “This looks like an ad for Viagra,” wrote one X user. Another user accused the billionaire of stealing his stylist Kenny Chesney.
He presented Mikhail Gorbachev with a cowboy hat, which the Soviet leader wore backwards
The wealthy have long worn clothes of Western culture in an attempt to “fit in” with the working class. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox called George W. Bush a “windshield cowboy” – Someone who pretends to be a cowboy riding horses, but is actually more comfortable behind the wheel of a jeep.
“What do you call a man in a western hat?”
In 1992, Stetson, a noted fan of Ronald Reagan, presented Mikhail Gorbachev with a cowboy hat … which the Soviet leader wore backwards. Bezos’ fellow space cowboy Elon Musk recently wore a Stetson hat to the US-Mexico border, and people accused him of looking completely foolish, while others accused him of wearing it backwards (which he didn’t).
Is Bezos’ move really that bad? Although at least he wore it normally, real cowboys say his hat looks like a suit. Michael Grauer, curator at the National Cowboy & Western History Museum, gives lectures on the accessory in question around the country.
“People are always looking for the cowboy character: that his handshake is his speech and that he works honestly for his pay”
“The first question I usually ask the audience is, ‘What do you call a man in a western hat?’ And the usual answer is, “cowboy,” explains Grauer. “But I’m like, ‘No, that’s a man in a western hat.’ It’s a way of appropriating the symbol of the man on horseback that symbolizes independence and freedom.”
After all, one could argue that Bezos is a “rancher” – he owns over 150,000 acres in West Texas, where the Vogue feature was shot.
“I can tell you that when someone wears this hat, it changes them”
“There are a lot of people who have ranches and don’t know which end of the horse does one thing and which end does another,” Grauer said. “A cowboy hat doesn’t make you someone who stands for the cowboy code. You can wear the clothes, the hat, the boots all day, but if you don’t embrace what a cowboy really is, honestly, it’s just a costume.”
In 1995, Bill Reynolds co-wrote The Cowboy Hat Book, and as part of the research, he spent a day as a hat salesman watching people try them on.
“I can tell you that when someone wears this hat, it changes them,” said Reynolds. “I don’t know who they see in the mirror, whether it’s John Wayne or Kevin Costner, but it changes a person’s perspective of themselves.”
But there’s an idealism to the American cowboy, Reynolds said, that doesn’t jive with the image of Bezos as the poster boy of a second golden age. “People always look for the cowboy character: that his handshake is his word and that he works honestly for his pay,” he said. “The symbol of this hat gives people great peace of mind.”
*Source: Guardian | Main subject photo: REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis