TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 29: A man wearing an American flag hat claps during the third day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov.Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC, which is scheduled to conclude August 30. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Why hats are so important at Republican and Democratic conventions
Helena Oliviero, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Jill Chambers plans to wear business attire to the Republican National Convention, with one very big, bright exception: her red, white and blue cowboy hat.
Chambers, an Atlanta delegate, also plans to adorn the hat, designed out of fabric in the colors of the American flag, with "Donald Trump for President" pins. The more the better, she says.
Colorful political hats have become ubiquitous at political conventions, and you can expect to see many flamboyant, eye-catching hats this month when enthusiastic Republicans and Democrats convene to nominate their candidates in Cleveland and Philadelphia, respectively. Expect to see homemade, creative ways to express "I’m with her," and "Make America great again," perhaps with bedazzled ball caps, straw hats, even Abe Lincoln-inspired hats.
"I think it is a little bit attention getting, it’s a little bit about having fun, and it also falls into that category of adding a festive allure to the event," said Chambers, a former state representative from DeKalb County, Georgia, and early Trump backer.
Chambers said she’s packing her Trump T-shirts, which she plans to reserve for social events. The hat, meanwhile, is the perfect accessory for the official convention gatherings.
Hats have a long history in American politics. Harry Rubenstein of the Smithsonian Institution told MSNBC earlier this year that campaign hats were popular attire for 19th-century political clubs at campaign events, such as torch-light parades.
"The iconic convention hat grew out of a tradition of hat-wearing delegates adding a button or flag to their headwear, until they became elaborate works of art drawing media attention," Rubenstein told MSNBC. "In more recent times, delegates learned that those who wore personal displays on their heads got more attention from the camera crews that covered the national conventions."
Rubenstein said candidates pass out hats at political events to help create a festive atmosphere and unify support for their candidate.
Meanwhile, delegate Franklin Delano Williams will proudly wear a hat covered in Hillary Clinton stickers and buttons at the Democratic National Convention.
"The hat has two purposes: to show your support, and it also gets you in the news," said Williams, who was a delegate in 2008 for Hillary Clinton.
Oscar Poole of Ellijay, Georgia, said he got the idea for wearing an Uncle Sam-inspired hat at the 1996 Republican National Convention, impressed by the attention a fellow delegate’s hat seemed to be drawing. So Poole, who has attended conventions as a delegate and a guest over the years, decided to start wearing the Uncle Sam hat at Republican conventions and other political events — with one, strategic move: He wore the hat with a bright yellow suit.
"I got so much media attention it made my head spin," said Poole, who is 86 and decided not to attend the upcoming Republican convention.
Poole said for him the hat is a way to have fun, meet people and express his love for both his country and the GOP.
"The hat just gives me a way to express myself, and I have strong patriotic views," he said. "It’s an honor and privilege to be able to express myself like this."
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