The Hat of a Murder Police

It may be my favorite book: David Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. This is the seminal text that fathered NBC’s 1990’s opus, Homicide: Life on the Street, and grand-fathered HBO’s masterpiece, The Wire. One of the standout characters of the book became one of the standout characters on network TV. He was Andre Braugher’s Frank Pembleton, a central Homicide detective with a terrific, even classic look. He wore a fedora.

Not long after I first moved down here, I saw a homicide detective on the local evening news. It’s a city, people kill each other. What caught my attention was his hat. Then I forgot about it. Later, I saw another homicide detective with another, similar hat that also caught my eye. At least two of Atlanta’s murder police wear fedoras. That struck me as old-fashioned, respectable, and classy.

Jamie Gumbrecht’s article on police fedoras in the AJC reveals that it’s more than just a fashion choice by a couple of individual cops. “In the early 1990s,” Gumbrecht writes, “it became less fashion statement, more symbol. Solve a case, earn a hat.” As the article points out, it’s not a trend but a tradition, and Atlanta’s homicide unit is tapping into that tradition for symbolic power.

It’s a great little article about culture and style: Read “Respect the Hat: Fedoras more than fashion for Atlanta homicide detectives,” and check out the article’s gallery of the hat squad.

1 Comment so far

  1. joebobatl on August 3rd, 2008 @ 10:18 pm

    I was (what seems like a long time ago now) a photojournalist on the then mean-streets of Savannah, GA during the years when it had the highest per-capita murder rate in the country. I became friends with several of the ‘murder police’ as David Simon calls ’em, and yes, more than a few sported the classic fedora – and yes, they earned ’em the old fashioned way – by solving red balls. Most of those old timers – the younger guys rarely opted for the hat – have passed away. They don’t make police like that anymore.

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