Thursday, September 9, 2010

T.O. chapeau inspires at least one follower

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens is known for over-the-top antics during his NFL career, but style icon? Who'd a thunk it?

Of course, seeing is believing, and I experienced this firsthand earlier on Thursday afternoon. Peep this: A woman walks into the high-end menswear store where I work, and asks me if the store carries fedoras. I replied that we carry only one model in the store, and it's brown.

She was looking for a black fedora, "like the one my boyfriend saw T.O. wearing on TV."

Oh, really? The same T.O. who has a reality show, and is usually good for a colorful quote during press conferences? I was stunned, but maintained my professional demeanor during the exchange.

I suggested that she try The Hat Store on Richmond and Chimney Rock in Houston. Plenty of fedoras are there, from Borsalino to Stetson. She thanked me for the tip.

Then, I got to thinking afterward ... will Owens' fedora-wearing ways gain a following? At least two of his pro football predecessors, coaches Tom Landry and Hank Stram, wore fedoras. Fedoras remain an elegant option for middle-age men. In Houston, however, I don't see too many hats in general (outside of baseball caps) being worn.

Whether athletes are trendsetters in classic style remains to be seen. Michael Jordan may have brought long shorts into vogue during his playing days in the '80s, but even his appearances in GQ haven't generated a sea change in men's style. Other GQ cover guys such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among current NBA stars who have upped the ante on style, but no clear front-runner has emerged.

NFL linebacker Dhani Jones is known for sporting bow ties, the preferred accessory of former NBA player-turned-ESPN basketball analyst Bruce Bowen. Shaquille O'Neal has worn a bow tie in postgame interviews during the NBA playoffs. Still, the "bow tie effect" hasn't caught on in today's men's fashion scene, which is getting less and less formal.

The irony is that fedoras and bow ties are hardly new; these are "old school" pieces of clothing that offer a retro look. In fact, they never left.

I'm not sure whether it's T.O.'s intention to reinvigorate the fedora, but one thing's for sure: Look at any old movie starring Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. or David Niven. If you study these films the way Mr. Owens would on opposing defensive backs, you'd make the All-Sartorial team in record time.