Say you’re one of the richest people in the world and you just so happen to be going to space. Now say you’d like people to focus on the fact that you’re, you know, going to space. If that’s the case, as it turns out, then you probably shouldn’t wear a cowboy hat.
Yet that’s exactly what Jeff Bezos did on Tuesday.
He rode a Blue Origin rocket into space.
Then, perhaps in an artistic attempt to create a visual metaphor about space being the new Wild West or maybe because he’s a big fan of the Steve Miller Band, he plopped a beige cowboy hat atop his head.
It was a true classic, including a hatband-hugged crown with both a top crease and the side pinches, a brim that curled sky(space)ward and the traditional front dip. It may have even included a buckle set. But rather than invite comparisons to John Wayne, it became the laughingstock of the internet.
As reporter Ben Walsh put it, “Big lesson today for middle-aged men wondering, ‘can I pull off a cowboy hat?’ “
(Repeat after me: Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.)
Look: In fairness, one of the internet’s guiding principles – at least on social media – is that if you can dunk on someone, you are obligated to dunk on said someone. So, rather than discuss the fact that a dude started an online bookstore and ended up in space, everyone discussed the hat.
Curious news anchor Jack Royer asked “Has Bezos always worn a cowboy hat? Or is this a new thing?” while musician Matt Scottoline wondered, “is Jeff Bezos going to wear a cowboy hat forever now is that his new thing.”
Tech commentator Lance Ulanoff suggested that “Bezos picked up a cowboy hat in space.” Which raises the question: Does Amazon deliver to space yet? (This feels like a good place to mention that Amazon did not respond to a request for comment about the hat.)
The jester-poets of Twitter described the headpiece as “emotionally vivid,” “dopey,” “inexcusable” and as “Curious George’s hat.” One suggested that “Jeff Bezos wearing a cowboy hat is the final form of every suburbanite who drives an F150.” Another said that he “cosplayed Chuck Yeager,” referring to the first pilot who exceeded the speed of sound.
“But can you imagine the sheer gut-wrenching terror in those first few seconds, when Bezos told his marketing dept that he was going to wear a cowboy hat,” asked reporter Ian Young.
Meanwhile, Washingtonian assistant editor Daniella Byck posed a vital question: “Why do I feel like Jeff Bezos was wearing six tiny cowboy hats under his big cowboy hat.”
The hat so irked one Twitter user who goes by PresidentBushranger that they tweeted, “I’m really hoping a mountain lion jumps out of the desert and eats Bezos hat. That would be good.” Unfortunately for PresidentBushranger, mountain lions primarily prey on deer and small mammals — not ill-chosen cowboy hats.
Political analyst Tom Sherwood was just disappointed that he couldn’t see the windows to Bezos’s soul, tweeting, “Really would have been nice if someone would have had the nerve to tell billionaire Bezos to tilt his cowboy hat back so we could see his eyes and expressions for this historic moment. oh, well.”
It reminded some people of the famous shot from “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” in which Slim Pickens’s Maj. “King” Kong straddles a bomb that’s rushing to Earth and twirls around a cowboy hat.
It reminded others of “The Simpsons” re-creation of the famous scene.
The hat didn’t have too many defenders. But there was John Sadler, the communications director for Nevada’s Office of the Attorney General, who tweeted that while he didn’t want to discuss the merits of privatized space travel, “I approve of the cosmic yee-haw vibes inherent to Bezos’ hat.”
Meghan McCain disagreed, simply tweeting, “Jeff Bezos cannot pull off a cowboy hat.”
Amid the biting jokes and astonished tweets were some more serious digs at Bezos and his business practices. Hours after suggesting Bezos should “JUST STAY UP THERE,” the “there” being space, the band Michigander tweeted, “Jeff Bezos shouldn’t be able to wear a cowboy hat until he pays his taxes.” (A recent report found Bezos paid proportionally little in income taxes in recent years, despite his tremendous wealth.)
Has a hat ever before inspired so much commentary? It’s difficult to say. But one thing is clear: Perhaps space travelers of the future should heed the simple yet sage advice from Ofirah Yheskel, the deputy communications director for the Democratic National Committee: “Sometimes you don’t have to put on a cowboy hat.”