Yankee media ask: ‘What’s with the hat?’ as Salazar gets Cabinet nod

Sen. Ken Salazar’s Western attire probably came as no surprise to home-state watchers when he appeared in Chicago Wednesday to accept President-elect Barack Obama’s nod as secretary of Interior, but East Coast media bigwigs have been wrestling with the fifth-generation Coloradan’s appearance — complete with bolo tie! — all afternoon.

The Washington Post’s Federal Eye column casts a glance askance at Salazar’s get-up under the headline “What’s With Salazar’s Hat? (And Bolo Tie!)”

Admit it. You know you thought it when you saw it: “What’s with Ken Salazar’s cowboy hat?” Colorado’s junior senator became the first Obama Cabinet appointee to don headgear during his formal announcement ceremony. He joins New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson — the Commerce secretary-designate — as the second appointee to regularly sport a bolo tie.

“It’s a visual demonstration of his Western roots,” the Federal Eye’s Ed O’Keefe helpfully elucidates, before understating, “which he frequently plugs.” It’s safe to say Salazar wears his “Western roots” on his sleeve, or on his head, or around his neck, every chance he gets.

It’s also good to know Salazar, an actual rancher, wasn’t the first member of the Obama Cabinet-in-waiting to break with the four-in-hand tradition, and we’ll give the Federal Eye its due — O’Keefe digs up a form of absolution for Salazar: Former Secretary Manuel Lujan Jr. wears a bolo tie in his official Department of Interior portrait.

O’Keefe then asks the pertinent question for his core readership (federal employees): “Can Interior Department employees expect a change in dress code? Will there be bolo-tie Fridays? Optional hat days?” An interior spokesperson obliges: “The dress code as I understand it states that you should dress appropriately for the position you’re in,” later allowing the new secretary can set whatever policy he wants.

Not to be outdone, Politics West notes that MSNBC anchor David Shuster clucked thusly while covering the Salazar announcement:

“I hear from one of our correspondents that you’re not supposed to wear a cowboy hat like that indoors unless you’re at a square dance or an indoor livestock auction. What was Salazar thinking?”

Duly noted, MSNBC. Shuster, however, has clearly never attended a political event in Colorado, excepting maybe the Democratic National Convention, which had more than its share of indoor cowboy hats.