TORONTO — You might think it would be hard for anything to steal the spotlight from a famous billionaire blasting into space on a rocket he paid for.
However, Tuesday’s launch of the Blue Origin rocket taught us that at least one thing can upstage a daring bit of space tourism: a new hat.
The 10-minute trip already had plenty of interesting storylines going for it: Jeff Bezos becoming the second billionaire to escape the planet in as many weeks; his hand-picked team including the youngest and oldest people ever to fly into space.
But as Bezos strode through the Texas desert to the New Shepard capsule, it was clear that many avid viewers had something else on their minds – the thing that the Amazon founder had on his head.
It was a small cowboy hat, maybe not quite as big as John Wayne liked to wear, but big enough to make an impression.
Sometime during the course of New Shepard’s voyage 106 kilometres above the Earth, the hat disappeared from Bezos’ head. That’s understandable; no hat could stay on any head at three times the speed of sound without the use of heavy-duty adhesives.
As the rocket descended back to ground level, video captured Bezos reaching for the hat and putting it back on his head before emerging from the capsule.
But what was the purpose of this all-hat-no-cattle costume choice? Was Bezos, who has a reputed net worth of more than US$200 billion, suffering from hat head? Was he using it to hide a rabbit? Did he plan to take it off to somebody, or throw it in the ring for something?
Upon landing, Bezos was clearly in a celebratory mood. He was not, however, inclined to elaborate on his accessorizing. That left it up to Twitter users to posit their own theories – including a Virginia-based dermatologist who offered up tongue-in-cheek praise to Bezos for being so committed to sun safety that he would even bring a wide-brimmed hat into space.
bezos in that hat looks like a white woman from michigan who took a trip to santa fe to buy turquoise jewelry and visit the georigia o’keeffe museum
— olivia gatwood (@oliviagatwood) July 20, 2021
Later, Bezos wore the hat to a press conference at which he outlined in detail the stories behind many of the items he brought with him on the trip, but did not speak about his headgear choice.
But can you imagine the sheer gut-wrenching terror in those first few seconds, when Bezos told his marketing dept that he was going to wear a cowboy hat
— Ian Young (@ianjamesyoung70) July 20, 2021