A Meditation on the Tiny Hat Trend
A large part of the Skidmore College experience is the constant ebbs and flows of fashion staples. Trends spread fast on campus, and like with any cultural phenomena, the purpose behind certain clothing staples can easily get lost or altered. The tiny hat, in this context a distinct rolled-up beanie, has become a cultural touchstone, emblematic of a new, meme-worthy type of man. When you see someone wearing a Carhartt jacket, a pair of Dickies overalls, or a camo-print sweatshirt, what do you think? A year ago, perhaps nothing. Today, the jokes are endless.
The tiny hat-wearer has accrued its own collection of stereotypes, assumptions, and personality traits, documented on social media by accounts like @tinyhat_skatelife, which offers cutting commentary on men who adorn these hats. Traits associated with tiny hat wearers are emotional unavailability, poor communication skills, and unwavering entitlement. One Skidmore student, familiar with these popular internet jokes, said “I feel like guys on this campus who wear tiny hats have an inferiority complex…what are they trying to accomplish?” What we must ask ourselves is, how do we address the truth that lies beneath these transferable quips, and what narratives have been overwritten in the process. When did dressing this way take on a new, shared meaning?
Brands like Carhartt and Dickies, two manufactures of the coveted beanies, haven’t always been associated with liberal arts college students and skaters. Dickies, a company founded in 1922 in Fort Worth Texas, set out to sell workwear to farmers, later expanding to serve other industries including construction and hospitality. Carhartt, founded in 1889, set out to create fire-resistant clothing for manual labor and durable apparel for hunting. For the dedicated skater, these brands may serve a functional purpose for mobility and safety during recreation, but for the clinger-on, looking to join in on the newest aesthetic crazy, perhaps there is a fine, easily-crossed line. The intrigue, then, lies in the rebranding of a working-class appearance.
It seems that a contextual and intellectual disconnect has formed. While it is not easy to label what lies on the other side of this line, it is not a reach to criticize or challenge this gap in understanding. One recent alum, attempting to condense what the tiny hat trend has symbolized for them both on and off the Skidmore College campus, drew attention to a forced attempt at “class invisibility,” resulting in “working class fetishization.”
Ile Lichtenstein ‘19 has found her own interactions with the tiny hate type on campus to be disingenuously open and inclusive — which in practice hasn’t existed amongst participating individuals. If we combine the accepted social commentary posed by voices like @tinyhat_skatelife with an acknowledgement of the history of working class apparel, we are faced with an assessment of intent and impact. Is it possible that those buying into this style are doing so in conscious hopes of blurring the lines of socio-economic status? If so, who has the right to initiate that practice?
Carhartt has proposed a solution in 1989 of sorts with its distinct clothing line, titled “Work in Progress”, launched with the slogan “One Brand. Two Stories.”. The sub-brand aims to appeal to those looking to engage in streetwear trends, incorporating Carhartt into their wardrobes for the sake of style rather than utility. The Carhartt brand, still focused on serving the manual laborer, remains its own separate entity.
Still, we are left with this visible trend, which one Skidmore student called the “phenomena of dressing down”. Is it a productive equalizer, or, as this student suggested, a stab at hiding privilege and coopting experience? Whether the answer is the former, the latter, or somewhere in between, it is the responsibility of young people to know the origin stories of the trends they engage with.