Paul Newman Had an Unsurprisingly Delightful Collection of Dad Hats


In life, Paul Newman wore a lot of hats. He was a Hollywood legend, a race-car driver, a philanthropist, a prescient watch collector, and a famous wife guy. But the late actor also wore a lot of actual hats in his time—and, as it turns out, he had particularly awesome taste in novelty ball caps. 

A handful of Newman’s well-loved, “dad hat”-style caps featured in a recent Sotheby’s auction of personal items belonging to the late actor and his wife Joanne Woodward, which also included watches, artworks, film and racing memorabilia, and furniture. Among the lot was a washed-out red cap bearing the logo of the couple’s charitable foundation Newman’s Own, which donates the proceeds of the actor’s beloved salad dressings and other sundries; a khaki cap from the Hole In the Wall Gang Camp, Newman’s non-profit summer camp for children with serious illnesses in northeastern Connecticut; and a faded black cap that simply says “Old Guys Rule,” which was, according to a 2009 biography Paul Newman: A Life, among the actor’s favorite fashion accessories.

Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Bidding on the set of five hats, which Sotheby’s expected to sell for between $100 to $150, had already shot up to $900 as of last week, as GQ contributor Jake Woolf tracked on Twitter. When they finally sold on Monday, the final bid was $8,890—or about 71 times the auction house’s initial estimate.

The red-hot demand for Paul Newman’s stuff is not terribly surprising at this point. Since his death in 2008, collectors have proven time and time again that they’re willing to shell out massive sums to feel as if they own a piece of his outsized aura: In 2017, one of Newman’s Rolex Daytona watches sold for a record-shattering $17.8 million at auction, and last weekend, another two of his Rolexes moved for over $1 million apiece in the same Sotheby’s auction as the hats. Newman was more than stylish—as Sotheby’s Leigh Safar told GQ’s Cam Wolf recently, he was arguably the original influencer, setting the tone for generations of style-minded men to come. His hat collection is yet more proof of just how ahead of the game he was: Long before the culture rebranded curved-bill, six-panel ball caps with wry slogans as “dad hats,” there was Paul Newman in his “Old Guys Rule” cap, looking cheekier than any IG menswear dude could ever hope to match.


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