John F. Kennedy was the first American president to go bareheaded and he ruined the hat business. Or so it is popularly believed. In Hatless Jack, Neil Steinberg examines why Kennedy was so reluctant to wear a hat in public - was it really because Khrushchev always did? He charts the attempts of the hat-makers of America to persuade their new, charismatic leader to save their declining industry. Along the way, he uncovers the now nearly-forgotten rituals of hat-wearing, with hat-check girls, straw-hat riots and ways of stopping the wind from blowing your hat off. Hats were tipped, raised, checked, waved and eaten (metaphorically, at least) and then they disappeared for ever. Hatless Jack is a fascinating and funny explanation of why hats went and what we all lost when they did.
Neil Steinberg is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. His books include Complete and Utter Failure: A Celebration of Also-rans, Runners-Up, Never-Weres and Total Flops, The Alphabet of Modern Annoyances and Don't Give Up the Ship: Finding my Father While Lost at Sea. His work has been published in Salon and Granta magazine.