There is the following sentence in Tina Fey’s “Bossypants":

”Don Fay dresses well. He has an artist’s eye for mixing colors and prints. He wears tweedy jackets over sweater vests in the winter and seersucker suits in the summer. His great college ring shows off his well-groomed hands. He can still rock a hat. - P43.”

I don’t understand what “He can still rock a hat” means.” Neither of CED or OED carries “rock a hat” as an idiom. Nor GoogleNgram does.

What does it mean? Is this phrase Tina Fey’s coinage?


4 Answers 4


I'm pretty sure it means that he looks good in a hat.

Not sure if UrbanDictionary is a good reference, but this is the definition I mean:


Wearing something proudly and/or looking good wearing something.

He's really rockin' that new hat of his!
He's really rockin' that new haircut.

Taken from UrbanDictionary: Rockin'

  • 2
    Matt Эллен above linked to an almost identical definition from Oxford dictionaries, who are a good reference: "informal Wear (a garment) or affect (an attitude or style), especially in a confident or flamboyant way" Apr 14, 2014 at 16:50
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    If one is going to rock a cranial accessory such as a hat, I must highly recommend that it be referred to also as a "sweet lid". It's more congruent, really.
    – BrianH
    Apr 14, 2014 at 17:08
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    @BrianDHall :-D Example usage: "At a soirée such as this, it is indeed imperative that one is seen to be rocking a sweet lid" Apr 14, 2014 at 18:11
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    UrbanDictioary is a terrible reference: just like Wikipedia, anyone can write anything there but, unlike Wikipedia, you can't edit away bad content. Apr 14, 2014 at 19:30
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    @DavidRicherby On the other hand, "inaccurate" answers are usually voted down, and like StackExchange, the order of user definitions on UrbanDictionary rises and falls depending on the number of votes.
    – IQAndreas
    Apr 15, 2014 at 5:13

My eldest son can rock a hat. I am the opposite: even great hats look terrible on me.

To rock a hat is to look great in a hat.

On an errand this weekend, I saw these chic summer hats on display.... They’re designed by Eugenia Kim, a New York based milliner. I was tempted to buy one but I’m not sure I can rock a hat.


It's not top brands or being able to rock a hat or a man scarf...
He also can rock a hat like nobody's business...
She’s got the sound and look of a star... The girl can sing, play piano and guitar, and man, can she rock a hat.

I have not been able to find the first use. It doesn't show up once in Ngrams. I'd guess that means it's use is relatively recent. Searching idioms with hat yields no rock a hat for me. There are a lot of colorful idioms involving hats, but I think this one is just jargon at the moment.

  • 1
    to "rock a piece of clothing" is the idiom, and I'm having trouble searching for it myself. I get better results for "rock a scarf" and "rock a bow tie" but still nothing in Ngrams.
    – KutuluMike
    Apr 14, 2014 at 16:26
  • @MichaelEdenfield - excellent point! Thank you. I was searching the wrong word in idioms. Apr 14, 2014 at 23:24

To rock a hat is a slang term meaning to wear a hat. How one looks in the hat is not always relevant, although it can refer to looks depending on how the phrase is used.

In this example the only implication is to wear a hat:

I think I will rock a hat for the party tomorrow night.

Whereas in this one it is strongly suggested that Eric looks good in the hat:

Eric can really rock that hat!

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    This answer is the only one which points out that it can be used simply to mean "wear" and does not always imply "to stylishly/successfully wear". I think your answer could be improved if you specified the difference between your examples - for example is it the use of "will rock" or "can rock" that defines the implication, or just the tone of the sentence? At the least maybe you could restructure the text you use to introduce the examples to show which is which - I'm suggesting an edit to do just that but you could definitely build on it further. Apr 14, 2014 at 6:22
  • I "approved" the edit because it improved the quality of the answer without changing it in any substantial way. However, Oral B, is free to rollback to the original.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 14, 2014 at 6:29
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    If this answer is to be believed, then "he can still rock a hat" is just a way of saying "he hasn't been decapitated yet".
    – tobyink
    Apr 14, 2014 at 8:54
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    Your opening sentence makes it sound like "to rock a hat" is a specific term, when really the term is just "rock" and can be applied to any clothing item. Apr 14, 2014 at 13:27
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    @Quuxplusone I have to respectfully disagree with your "ace" analogy, and I firmly stand by "rock" meaning simply to wear.
    – Henry F
    Apr 14, 2014 at 16:19

"Rock" (Colloquial) meant to indicate fashion or style attributes such as a haircut or clothing.

"Rock the tee shirt today."

"Rock the afro."

"Rocking them big gold medallions"

All of these being a similar slang use of "Rock."

Hope that helps. :)

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