The calls began to flood Luke Song’s hat shop not long after Aretha Franklin finished belting out “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Franklin, who wore a gray felt custom-designed hat from Mr. Song Millinery, has inadvertently caused an economic boom for the South Korean immigrant’s store. Song said he wasn’t prepared for the hundreds of calls requesting the hat with a Swarovski rhinestone-bordered bow. “We even have a lot of men calling to get it for their wives, mothers and grandmothers,” Song said.
The hat worn by the “Queen of Soul” was hand-molded and would cost upward of $500 — if it were for sale, the 36-year-old designer said. Customers instead were offered a satin ribbon version for $179. “They want the same hat, but they understand it’s for the ‘Queen’ only,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent said, ‘That’s fine. I’ll get the next best thing.'” The family millinery has been in Detroit for about 25 years, and Franklin has been a customer for about 20 of those years. The store also sells to about 500 boutiques across the country.
A Flickr group has been created for photoshopped images of the hat. Unsurprisingly, most of the folks there appear to be gay men. Bears, to be exact.