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Aretha’s Hat is a photoshop meme featuring the strange bow-style hat worn by singer-songwriter Aretha Franklin during Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration in January of 2009. The hat is often superimposed on to the heads are other subjects in a variety of different source images.
On January 20th, 2009, Barack Obama’s presidential inaugural ceremony was held at the West Front of the United States Capitol building. After evangelical pastor Rick Warren delivered the ceremony’s invocation, Aretha Franklin sang the American patriotic song “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” by Samuel Francis Smith (shown below).
During the performance, Franklin wore a distinctive grey hat, which was adorned with a Swarovski crystal-studded bow. The hat was designed and constructed by milliner Luke Song from Detroit, Michigan. According to the Milliner, Aretha visited his Detroit showroom in early January of 2009 looking for a special hat for the inaguration. The fashion news publication WWD quoted Song saying:
“She’s our regular customer and comes to us often. She actually had three to choose from for that day, but went with her second choice. It probably looked better on camera.”
During the inauguration, the ABC News live blog published a post titled “Aretha’s Hat”, which joked about the singer’s hat being considered a “national treasure.” The same day, the viral content site BuzzFeed published a post featuring a photograph of Franklin wearing the hat (shown below, left), to which several users commented with photoshopped images featuring the hat superimposed on a variety of subjects (shown below, right).
Hours later, BuzzFeed published a post titled “Aretha’s Hat is Everywhere”, which included a photograph of former vice president Dick Cheney wearing the bow hat (shown below, left). The post also included a link to an exploitable template of the hat on a transparent background (shown below, right).
On the following day, the Internet news blog Urlesque published an article titled “Aretha’s Hat is Blowing Up”, which included a compilation of notable examples from the series. On January 31st, CNN published an article titled “Smithsonian Requests Aretha’s Hat”, reporting that the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. had requested the hat be given to them to place in an exhibition at the museum. As of September 14th, 2012, a Facebookpage titled “Aretha Franklin’s Inauguration Hat” has accumulated over 92,900 likes.
On March 5th, 2012, The Daily Beast published an article titled “Aretha Franklin on the Hat That Created a Worldwide Sensation”, which featured a statement by Franklin explaining the decision to wear the hat during the inauguration.
Aretha Franklin’s Statement
On March 5th, 2012, The Daily Beast published an article titled “Aretha Franklin on the Hat That Created a Worldwide Sensation”, which featured a statement by Franklin explaining the decision to wear the hat during the inauguration and her reaction to the internet fame.
“People were calling me from Europe! At first, I was calling them, looking for the hat, and then they were calling and writing about how much they loved it. That was one fabulous hat, and everybody liked it. I think it’s because it was so stylish and gorgeous. The hat took on a life of its own. I understand that the hat has its own Facebook page. As a matter of fact, I went to the NAACP dinner in Detroit recently, and a young lady came to shake hands with me, and she had on the same hat, only it was white.”
The Huffington Post – Aretha Franklin’s Hats Fetching Big Bucks At Auction
The Daily Beast – Aretha Franklin on the Hat That Created a Worldwide Sensation
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