Rooney: A Look At The Hat Racket

Rangers Up In Arms Over Black Berets

The Pentagon announced recently that everyone in the Army, about half a million men and women, are going to wear the black beret previously worn by the Rangers as a symbol of excellence. The Rangers are sore as hell.

A hat is just something that keeps your head warm - unless it is a symbol, in which case, of course, it can be important.

A hat can mean you belong to an exclusive group - a Yankee fan, a shriner, a college graduate. If you wear a crown as a hat, it symbolizes you're not an ordinary person, you're a king or a queen. No one gets to wear one who isn't. In the Catholic Church only cardinals get to wear red hats. It's like the black beret for Rangers. If every Catholic could wear a red hat, it would ruin it for Cardinals.

A hat can be part of a person's personality, too. A woman's hat is often a giveaway of her personality. They are seldom worn for either warmth or protection.

Soldiers have always worn distinctive headgear. Some wore it for show - some to protect what was inside it.

General Montgomery was the first soldier I ever saw wear a beret.
When I was in the Army, I wore what was called an overseas cap - even when I wasn't overseas. During those same years my friend Ernie Pyle wore the little olive green cap, designed to fit under a helmet for warmth.

One of the fanciest hats was worn by American Indian warriors. A cowboy's hat is different. It often serves a purpose, for example, to make Don Imus look like the Marlboro man.

Tough guys like Jimmy Cagney wore caps.

The top hat was elegant. When past Presidents were sworn in, they wore them. An unimportant person wouldn't wear a hat like this.

It hasn't been many years since men wore fedoras. Old news pictures show most men in any crowd wearing a fedora.

The headdress of any country looks strange to the people of any other.

John F. Kennedy was the first President to go bare-headed, and he ruined the hat business.

The thing most men wear now, if they wear anything at all on their heads, is the baseball cap. It keeps the head warm, the sun out of their eyes. To placate the Rangers, the Army is giving them tan berets but they're still sore as hell.

Why didn't the Army change its mind and let the Rangers keep the black beret? Well, because the Pentagon had already ordered almost four million black berets and there are only 2,000 Rangers.

Four million dollars worth of those berets are being made in Communist China. Maybe they'll be made by the journalists in prison there, who criticized the Army.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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