|Aretha Franklin's Hat Lives On|
|By JOANNA STERN (@joannastern)||Jan 18, 2013, 11:25 AM|
Jan. 20, 2009 was an historic day. Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.
On the Internet that day there was another historic occurrence. It had to do with a hat.
It was Aretha Franklin's hat, of course. The gray, big-bowed hat, which she wore as she sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee" couldn't be missed. It became the inspiration for one of the first real Internet memes. Photos of the hat -- on her, on cats, on Obama, on Dick Cheney, on Spock, on Waldo and so many others -- made the rounds for weeks.
A good meme always lives on the Internet, but ABC News has learned that it will live on at the 2013 inauguration itself.
Luke Song, the designer and creator of Ms. Franklin's famous hat, said he has had hundreds of requests for copies of it in the last couple of weeks.
"I had a lot of requests and orders for that particular hat -- a replica of the inauguration hat. I know that there will be a lot of people in the audience wearing it as an homage to the last inauguration," Song told ABC News.
Song hasn't gotten any requests from anyone singing at the inauguration and said he doesn't know what Ms. Franklin's hat plans are this year. Aretha Franklin's publicist did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.
Back in 2009, Facebook and Twitter were just picking up steam. A Facebook page dedicated to the hat attracted over 90,000 fans and, according to the website AllFacebook, over 1,000 users submitted photos of themselves wearing the hat. According to Twitter, which again was just starting to ramp up, there were 10,000 tweets the day of the 2009 inauguration about "Aretha."
Luke Song, the creator of the hat
Song says he actually thinks the intersection of the hat and the rise of social media was timed perfectly. "The timing of that hat was just right for that. There hadn't been anything like that before. Facebook had just started to become really popular, it was the first Facebook post that had a million numbers, it was one of those first Internet memes."
And that all translated to bigger sales for Mr. Song Millinery, Song's hat business. Individual retail sales went up significantly, he says. He also offered a version of the hat for $179. He has been selling that version at a discounted $89.50 for the last couple of weeks. (The original cost about $500.)
Song always makes two originals of the special hats he creates. The Smithsonian requested the original that Ms. Franklin wore in 2009. Song believes it will be placed in President Obama's library. The backup hat is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Beyond the Internet buzz, the increased sales and its place as a footnote to history, Song says he is proud of something else he thinks the hat did.
"There was a serious discussion happening about hats. Aside from the humor -- there is always truth behind the humor -- the conversation about hats started and it progressed continuously with the Derby happening […]and the royal wedding," Song said. "I think it was a national awakening of hat culture. It said it was okay for people to wear hats."