Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Perhaps you’ve seen this photo of Kim Jong Un visiting a fish-pickling facility while sporting an uncharacteristically laid-back look. It’s a piece of classic North Korean propaganda — Kims, they’re just like us! — but it’s pretty hard to resist wondering about the super-chill vibes given off by a man currently keeping somewhere between 80,000 and 130,000 of his own people in gulags.
When Vox’s foreign editor Jenn Williams dropped into Racked’s Slack to ask us about his unexpected headwear choice, we were eager to help. But could we? It seems like no, because we spent, like, 15 minutes trying to name that hat! and we’re still not sure.
As we’ve covered in this space previously, Kim is known for his signature, totally unchanging look: hair in the deepest of Marcia Brady center parts paired with the same Mao suits his grandpa liked. He’s a uniform dresser, like Obama or Zuck!
But for summer vacation, the dictator-for-life has taken on a different aesthetic, one CNN calls “casual” and Fox News calls “romantic.” While the henley/hat combo undeniably gives off an Out of Africa vibe, “romantic” still seems like a strong word choice to describe the outfit Kim Jong Un wore to a fish-pickling facility.
Of course everyone — from CNN and Fox to USA Today and the Telegraph — made note of Kim’s “straw hat.” And look, it’s definitely straw and it’s definitely a hat, so they’re right, but can’t we do better? There are plenty of straw hats, across all cultures — Ecuador’s Panama hats, 1920s American-style boaters, Chilean chupallas, the “Asian conical hat,” which I honestly thought would have a different name but apparently doesn't. This one must have a name too.
“Is that a fedora?” Jenn asked. To that, we could confidently say no. Though KJU totally seems like a fedora guy, those jazzy hats are generally made of felt with, most importantly, much smaller brims.
“Honestly looks like a straw beach hat,” Racked executive editor Julia Rubin said, but we knew we could do better (we couldn’t).
As for me, I searched “list of hats,” dropping Wikipedia’s article “List of hat styles” into the conversation, assuming everyone would want to play along.
“Like a bastardization of a Panama hat?” reporter Rebecca Jennings guessed, which Jenn agreed was closer. “Could also just describe it as, like, a wide-brim straw hat,” Rebecca concluded.
I volunteered that it looked “like a straw cowboy hat, almost.”
Senior reporter Eliza Brooke recommend that Kim check out Jacquemus’s “Le grand chapeau Bomba,” which indeed might actually be romantic.
“(crying laughing emoji face)” several members of the chat responded.
At some point, the question was raised: Perhaps this is a specifically North Korean hat style? Which would have made sense! But according to the Wikipedia article “List of Korean clothing, headgear,” it’s not. The hunt continues.
Jenn weighed in, calling the headwear a “bizarre floppy Panama hat-cowboy hat hybrid,” and promised to come up with a “clever way of describing it,” but we were not ready to let this go yet.
“It’s too weird, like legit a beach hat! What I wear to the beach!” Julia said, while I tried to throw the campaign hat (a.k.a. the Smokey the Bear) into the ring. “Can be straw,” I explained of the Pharrell fave, “but it’s not really wide-brimmed enough.”
And then the conversation sort of petered out, the way work conversations on Friday afternoons tend to do.
Anyway, do you know what this hat is called? We sure don’t! Tell us in the comments, please.