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Walter White as Heisenberg: His Hat Explained

By Taylor James


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Breaking Bad’s main character Walter White is so iconic that anyone who has watched the series could identify him from his silhouette. His hat alone is a dead giveaway, but what is the type of hat that Walter White wears?

Walter White wears a pork pie hat when he’s working under his alter ego: meth-cooking Heisenberg. This accessory is a gesture to Detective Doyle’s hat in The French Connection, a film that follows a similar plot to Breaking Bad.

Who Is Walter White?

If you’re unfamiliar with the plot of Breaking Bad, the TV show follows the adventures of high school chemistry teacher Walter White. An unfortunate cancer diagnosis with an expensive treatment plan leaves him and his family scrambling for money.

Walter White puts his chemistry knowledge to work and begins cooking crystal meth. The series follows the chaotic ups and downs of Walt’s journey balancing his family life, terminal lung cancer, and teaching – all while stepping into the dangerous and unpredictable world of cooking and selling meth on the down-low.

Does Walter White’s Hat Have Any Significance?

While the hat represents Walt’s shift between his true identity and alter ego, Heisenberg’s iconic pork pie getup has some other cinematic ties.

Walter White wasn’t the first drug-connected character to don a pork pie hat on screen. Popeye Doyle of The French Connection, a detective determined to catch a narcotics dealer, also sported this fashion accessory.

The brilliant writers of Breaking Bad went so far as to address the link between the two characters explicitly. In a scene where Hank, the DEA brother-in-law, discusses his Heisenberg chase, he references the film. Walter replies by noting that detective Doyle failed to catch the drug lord. 

Hank and Walter’s relationship throughout the series mimics Doyle and Charnier, the drug smuggler.

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In the French Connection, Popeye Doyle’s Hat Was Based on the Hat a Real Life Detective

Popeye Doyle’s pork pie hat was based on the actual hat of Eddie Egan, a New York City detective known for a $32 million heroin bust. The detective was reluctant to loan his authentic hat to Gene Hackman, who played the role. However, the costume department created a replica of the pork pie style.

Where Did the Pork Pie Hat Get Its Name?

Pork pie does seem like an odd name for a hat. If you’ve seen a pork pie pastry, you may notice the resemblance between the two.

The tall, flakey pork pie is a pie filled with pork. Its smooth, flat top and crimped edge almost perfectly mirror the hat’s construction. Of course, while the actual pie is made of pastry, the hat can be made of various materials, including felt, silk-covered cotton, or straw. Read more about how the pork pie hat got its name in this article.

Final Thoughts

The hat is the defining feature that distinguishes Walter from Heisenberg. The hat and the persona are interwoven, leaving us with an unforgettable character and an unforgettable hat.

About Taylor James

As Philip Treacy once said, “How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.” And on that note, I hope you enjoy your hats and find the site useful. Learn more about Hat Realm's Editorial Process.