Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Infamous hat now on view at Newseum

Every now and then, someone does something that captivates the world through social media and becomes a national, or even global, phenomenon. Such was the case when Pharrell Williams showed up to the Grammys last February in a now famous, oversized Vivienne Westwood hat. 

The hat sparked thousands of conversations on social media, most notably Twitter, where fans made multiple comparisons, photoshopped parodies and masterfully crafted memes. The Internet community also couldn’t help but notice similarities between Pharrell’s hat and the Arby’s logo. The fast-food restaurant did not miss the opportunity to engage in the global conversation. Arby’s took to Twitter to tease Pharrell about “borrowing its hat.” 

After wearing the hat to a number of events and sparking endless conversations, Pharrell chose to use the notoriety to publicize his charity and raise some money. Pharrell put the famous hat up for auction through eBay, challenging Arby’s to get its hat back. 

Arby’s took the bait and bought the hat for $44,100, the proceeds from which went to Pharrell’s charity, From One Hand to Another, which develops educational programs for kids in at-risk communities. 

The hat is now on view at the Newseum, a Washington, D.C., museum is dedicated to showcasing history made by news and journalism, on loan from Arby’s through October 26. The museum is displaying the hat to highlight the abilities of social media to sensationalize even the most mundane of objects. 

The global conversation that resulted from the hat not only engaged fans with Pharrell and the famous brand, but also raised money for a worthy charity. The object’s ability to spark widespread conversation shows the power of images and their potential to provoke conversation around the world through channels like social media.

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