Does the Fedora Make the Twitter Troll, or Does the Troll Make the Fedora?
I used to wear one, so I get it, Joe.
When was the last time you ran into someone with a fedora? Do you remember what it was like? At any point in your conversation with them (or possibly while eavesdropping on them) did you detect questionable moral opinions and/or a bad taste in music? If you said no to any of the above, it's because you didn't run into a person with a fedora—that was a pork pie hat, and they might have secretly been a high school-teacher-turned-meth-cook.
The reason I know this is because dudes (and yes, it's pretty much only white dudes like myself) who wear fedoras are, in the worst possible way, painfully hard to forget. (OK, yes, hating on fedoras is an easy, cliche thing to do at this point—I'm not taking much of a sociopolitical risk here.) It's why the Twitter of Joe Warmington, a newspaper columnist at the Toronto Sun best known for being Rob Ford's personal word butler, is both unbearably boring in its banal trolling, and yet, somehow, by the grace of Don Draper in a trilby, fascinatingly terrible at the same time.
Warmington, who is pretty much a Toronto heritage moment at this point among the city's media-types, has become an unignorable presence recently due to his incessant praise for the rise of Trump's America and his continuous, privilege-dripping critiques of the Donald's opponents (like, refugees, for example). Ol' Joe embodies all the classic prowess and know-it-all-ness that has been—through no fault of the hat's actual design—bestowed upon the fedora in today's internet-age meme culture.
Toronto writer John Semley tied Warmington's relationship with fedoras into a NOW piece called "What happened to Joe Warmington's hat?", in which Warmington was interviewed about why he decided to start wearing a fedora. Warmington explains that, while the hat was "a caricature" of a "40s-style" reporter look for his tongue-in-cheek alter-ego "Night Scrawler," he eventually began assuming the lifestyle of this battle-weathered noir reporter as his own.
"I definitely lived the life as the Scrawler at the time. I had a downtown condo, and I lived it. I don't have that any more. I've settled down. I have a son that's seven months old. But I definitely feel like an old time reporter," he told Semley.
"I started in 1984, so I am a bit of a throwback for today's game, in terms of the BlackBerry and all that. I didn't touch a computer until I was 20 years old. I identify with that character. I'm not ready to walk away from it. I'm going to have a discussion about it, and see if I stick with it. Some people want me to stick with it. And some people think it's moronic and juvenile."
"Moronic and juvenile" is a pretty apt description for some of Warmington's behaviour: both online and in his work, Warmington is overly righteous about trivial issues (here is his column on Drake and fellow Toronto rapper Pressa, where he expresses probably genuine shock at a rapper having criminal charges), he seems to be inept at social etiquette (he posted up in the Starbucks below the Toronto Star just days after one of the company's reporters committed suicide—hoping to secure interviews with fellow employees, one of whom offered to "rip [his] fucking throat out]"), and, as a middle-aged man caught in the technoverse, he is deeply out of touch with all things d i g i t a l.
This is all of little surprise to me—from Grade 7 to Grade 9, I wore a fedora. Yes, indeed, I purchased it from the retail chain Lids while two employees glared disgustingly at me. At the time, I was a "strict atheist" who liked to call out "the bullshit of religion" (I specifically remember taunting and making fun of all of my classmates who happened to go to church, which, obviously, made me very well liked), I ran a blog where I made posts such as "Why Feminism Is Bullshit," (I now know it is not) and, like Warmington, I had an obsession with talking incessantly about issues that were of little to no concern to me.
It's worth noting that fedoras, by and large, have done nothing wrong to the world. Back in 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and up until some point in the 60s, it was actually pretty cool to wear a fedora. Detectives wore them; businesspeople wore them; that wise old man who became the mentor of all your favourite childhood book characters wore them. But as time progressed, and western style evolved, fedoras (unless atop the scalp of Leonard Cohen, Stevie Wonder or Indiana Jones) began to mutate into an academic "FUCK YOU" to people enjoying their lives.
Let's pull no punches: Fedoras objectively breed bad opinions (or at least attract people who have them). The association that fedoras have with the alt-right, and online trolling in general, is not unwarranted. Wearing a fedora in 2017 is to dream about a time before "SJWs"—to an era where you could call women "M'lady," drive down the freeway with no seatbelt, and smoke cigarettes in your office while typing your sexist poetry books.
The truth here is that most men don't have the need or ability to live through the lens of stoic masculinity anymore. Fedoras give the false reassurance that, despite the fact everyone has moved onto better things, these intellectual warriors have risen among the filth of the masses. In reality, they're just finding a crux for their own insecurities.
Take Warmington's column on Black Lives Matter—a group that he says needs to be "banished" (gotta love that fixation on using ancient-y, Mordor-esque words to assert intellectual dominance over others) from activist culture. In the column, Warmington—who is an open Trump supporter (obvi)—directs ire at one of the leaders of Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO) for calling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a "white supremacist."
*Gasp* Warmington, a guy who takes literally every chance he can to shit on black culture and black music, considers this shocking language. This is the same guy who has made absolutely no attempt to address the mudslide of racist propaganda and xenophobic dribble being produced by the people he follows, retweets, and works for. Even putting away how glaringly obvious it is that Warmington is an old white dude so out of touch with modern culture that he feels his only lifeline is to appeal to similarly boring people/racists, the fact that he produced a 1994 biography of Billy Ray Cyrus (no, seriously) should speak volumes about his character as a human being.
Putting all of Warmington aside for a moment to come back to the poor hat caught in the middle of this, the achilles heel of fedoras can be neatly summed up in a 2013 Reddit thread entitled, "Why Do People Hate Fedoras," in which Redditor digitalskyfire unpacked the identity of a modern fedora-wearer perfectly.
"Improperly wearing [a fedora] shows a lack of self-awareness. It has a (formerly) classy reputation because it's meant to be worn with a suit...Now we turn to the modern neck beard: he wears the fedora in order to get some of that, 'class'" we talked about. Thing is, it was never that the fedora made anybody look classy, it was that well-dressed people just happened to wear them at one time or another. If you wear cargo shorts and a Naruto graphic button-up, a fedora isn't going to save that outfit. It just makes the wearer look like a dope."
During my few years of wearing a fedora, I felt like I needed to tell anyone and everyone my shitty, awful, unwanted views on society. Got rejected by a girl? It was because they were too brainwashed by the trappings of modern popular culture, and I was a lone warrior there to liberate tainted minds. Suggesting Obama is a good president? Let me cut you off immediately and remind you that, Hey, Obama uses drones to kill people , which makes him the shittiest president of all time, OK? Hip-hop? Disgusting. I only listen to conscious rap— Lupe Fiasco is the only real one left . All of this comes from the same desire that I had to raise my hand in every social studies class to say, "Well, actually..."
Now that I'm on the other side, I can see it clear as day: wearing a fedora is pretentiousness condensed into a fashion statement. But it's OK, really! Most of us grow out of it. The danger is when you adapt or hold onto those insecurities into your adult years—because while Warmington is ultimately just a troll (and a bad, boring one at that), the real victim here is him. As he continues to rant and go on lonely reporting crusades that no one really cares about, we're all too busy looking at his classy crown of thorns.
Follow Jake on Twitter.