UPDATE: Look who’s wearing a cowboy hat — Tommy Mulcair. And he doesn’t look half bad in it.
Everybody loves the Calgary Stampede (except, of course, for PETA and friends).
But few people understand the true catnip of that love affair. It’s got nothing to do with horses or cows or corrals or clowns (well, not in the rodeo sense). Nope. It’s all about the hats. Cowboy hats.
Taking part in the Calgary Stampede allows everyone from royalty to the Dalai Lama to Joe Schmoe from corporate accounting in Mississauga to strut around town wearing a cowboy hat without feeling like a freaking idiot — a freaking, make-believe, wanna-be idiot at that.
Basically, the only way you stand out in Calgary during Stampede is by NOT wearing a cowboy hat. (NOTE: It really, truly has to be a Stetson™ to feel right on your head; I’d substitute “Stetson” for “cowboy hat” in this piece but some jokers out there haven’t got the message and are wandering around in knockoffs — and they can’t figure out why they’re feeling like jerks.)
Anyone can get away with wearing a cowboy hat during Stampede. Just look at this silly fellow.
The hat fetish is very much a case of living out childhood fantasies for most of us. In general, the cowboy hat’s pull has far more to do with Saturday afternoon movies and backyard gunfights than it does with any sort of modern reality.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
A healthy fantasy life supposedly keeps us sane and balanced as we slug through the daily drudge of life. Just don’t confuse fantasy and reality.
In that regard, I have more than a little trouble with politicians (of all stripes) who flock to the Calgary Stampede just so they can wear cowboy hats. Or, more precisely, so they can be photographed and videotaped wearing cowboy hats.
Because everybody loves a hero, too. And nothing says hero like a white cowboy hat.
Of course, there are those rebellious punks who wear black hats just to cock a snoot a society and say “I’m an outlaw in my heart — just like Willie and Waylon.”
Or maybe the black hat just says Snidely Whiplash, the nasty mortgage-flaunting banker who wants to get his hands on Sweet Nell’s, um, homestead.
Anyway, politicians flock to the Calgary Stampede every year like mice to cheese so they can gladhand and backslap and smile for the camera. But most importantly, I think, so they can wear cowboy hats without looking like complete fools. Most of them fail in that regard. But here’s a selection of our boys and girls trying their best to look like Western heroes and heroines.
Well, Jack Layton looks the best of the bunch (Redford and Trudeau — dad — are pretty good, too). I wonder if we’ll ever see Tommy Mulcair wearing a Stetson in Calgary? Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a photo of Mulcair wearing a hat — of any kind.
But then, some people just shouldn’t wear hats — of any kind.
Canadian politicians aren’t the only ones who glory in the macho image a cowboy hat imparts. Wearing a cowboy hat is just part of being an American president.
Even American presidential wannabes use the cowboy hat.
And presidents of other countries — like South Sudan and Ethiopia.
And prime ministers of countries other than Canada.
And, of course, royalty.
But nobody does it better than the Duke.