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In Brief

Flamboyant Hats Add Fun to Political Conventions

13 June 2012

Woman in elaborate feathered hat and fringed jacket and woman in hat and shirt decorated with political buttons and U.S. flags (Smithsonian Institution)

Since the use of mobile television cameras in the 1970s, delegates to the Republican and Democratic national conventions have increasingly dressed up to attract media attention.

It just wouldn’t be an American political convention without outlandish hats.

Since the use of mobile television cameras in the 1970s, delegates to the Republican and Democratic national conventions have increasingly dressed up to attract media attention. The hats help turn the serious business of nominating a presidential candidate into a true celebration.

Not everyone wears these creations, but for those who do, “it’s the last bastion of free and honest, if not over the top, expression,” says William L. Bird of the Smithsonian Institution, which has a collection of political memorabilia.

“A lot of times the people with the hats are sitting on the end of the aisles” in the convention hall, Bird said. “They position themselves so they’re very accessible to reporters and the cameras.”

Above left, a delegate to the 2008 Republican convention wears a hat decorated with feathers and a fringed jacket. On the right, at the 2008 Democratic convention, a delegate shows off her shirt and hat decorated with flags and political buttons.