The most iconic accessory in Breaking Bad wasn’t put there on purpose. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) begins the series as a nerdy high school chemistry teacher who never breaks the rules. But by the final season, Mr. White transforms into a murderous drug dealer known as Heisenberg with no moral compass. His journey is almost unbelievable.
One of the most obvious symbols of Walter White becoming Heisenberg was his pork pie hat. The most surprising thing of all? He didn’t wear it to look cool. Heisenberg’s black hat was put there for the most practical reason.
The pork pie hat didn’t originate with Walter White
Heisenberg is one of the most famous men to ever wear the hat, but he’s not the only one. The pork pie style hat became popular during the ‘30s and ‘40s in the Great Depression era. The hat became associated with jazz culture, and though it fell out of fashion in the ‘50s, it retained popularity thanks to those connections.
And there’s a deeper movie reference to the hat also. According to vocal.media, narcotics detective Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) wears a pork pie hat in the 1971 movie The French Connection.
There’s an Easter egg in season 4 episode 4 of Breaking Bad when it’s mentioned that Detective Doyle never catches the drug dealer he’s chasing. It’s just like what Walt wishes for himself as his brother-in-law Hank hunts for Heisenberg.
The hat style took on a whole new significance when Walter White made it cool again on Breaking Bad.
Bryan Cranston wore the hat to protect his head from sunburn
On Breaking Bad, Walter White is diagnosed with lung cancer and must undergo chemo treatments. He shaves his head to compensate for the hair loss and uses the head accessory to cover his newly exposed scalp.
And it all comes down to practicality after that. Because the show is filmed in Albuquerque under the blazing desert sun, the wardrobe team came up with the idea to give Cranston a hat to protect his bald head. At first, it wasn’t meant to symbolize Walt becoming Heisenberg. But that’s exactly what happened.
The hat first appears in season 1 episode 7, “A No Rough Stuff Type Deal.” That’s also the first time viewers get a glimpse of Walt’s famous blue meth.
Heisenberg’s hat is still famous today
As expected, the Goorin Bros. hat company who made the hat released a special edition version for purchase in a limited release right before the final season of Breaking Bad. It sold out quickly but is still available from resellers on eBay.
Heisenberg’s pork pie hat is so famous it’s on display at the Smithsonian museum along with the yellow Hazmat suits and gas masks Walt and Jesse wear while making meth.
And as for the real prop from Breaking Bad? Bryan Cranston kept Heisenberg’s hat and sunglasses from the series. “That’s my prized possession,” the actor told Entertainment Weekly of his beloved souvenir.
If anyone should have it, it’s the real Walter White. Or should we say Heisenberg.
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