I have never really given much thought to hats. In fact, if you were to ask me if I even liked hats, I would have to confess that, no, I don’t particularly. I much prefer a head barren of covering. I have always suspected that people who habitually wear hats must secretly be hiding something. I have a friend and colleague whom I have never seen without a hat. Always a NY Yankees official baseball cap that he wears backwards – which in my days of youth meant trouble already. When I was a boy, if you wore your baseball hat backwards then you were most likely a potential serial killer or, at the very least, mentally deficient. However, now, everyone wears their caps backwards and my friend Steve is no different. He seems to think it gives him a jaunty air, but I think it just makes him look goofy.
As I mentioned earlier, I have never seen him without that cap. I suspect he was born wearing it – popped right out of his mother’s womb, already genetically pre-programmed to love those Yankees. When I first met Steve, I figured he was just covering up a bad haircut. Once, after about a month or two of wondering about this, I tried to surreptitiously pluck the hat off his noggin, just to put my mind to rest about what went on under that thing. Steve recoiled and his entire face went white as if my outstretched hand were a hissing cobra or something. That only reinforced my entire thesis that people who always wore hats had terrible secrets and should be best left alone.
During the years I knew Steve, I rarely wore a hat. Only when one was foisted upon me, either as a well-intentioned Christmas gift, or an ill-intentioned birthday joke did I temporarily don a head covering and then only not to offend the bearer of the gift. Whether well- or ill-intentioned, I see no reason to hurt someone’s feelings by telling them their gift is neither wanted nor appreciated. Better to look goofy and be a good sport about it than ruin either a good friendship or spoil a good prank.
However, nowadays, I find myself wearing hats all the time, almost without thinking about it. In fact, I did a quick accounting of the hats in my closet and I found out I have ten of them. All of them are less than pristine so I must wear them at least occasionally and probably almost without my conscious knowledge. Most of them, too, are, strangely enough, Steve-like baseball hats, though I have yet to be caught wearing even one of them on backwards. All of them, too, have some sort of logo on them. In fact, one of them is a NY Yankees hat that sits on my hat rack next to my Seattle Mariners cap. Those two caps were purchased years ago during a visit to Seattle with my brothers and my father to watch the Yankees play three exhibition games against the Mariners. My dad was a huge Yankee fan, and wanted to see Reggie Jackson knock several balls out of the park. My brothers and I just went to humour him. We all bought baseball hats as souvenirs though. I bought two of them – as I said, one Mariners and one Yankees hat. I wore them both at the same time, the one on top being the team that happened to be winning at that moment. My dad was disgusted with my duplicitous fan behavior and wouldn’t talk to me for the rest of the trip.
My favorite baseball hat, though, has nothing to do with baseball at all, but bears the logo of the Bowen Island Building Centre. I love it because the brim has what I think of as the perfect curve. Hats that you buy come with completely flat brims that need to be molded into the proper shape. This one took days of massaging before I got it exactly right. Baseball hats with that kind of curve speak of a man with impeccable baseball hat sense. There is a devil-be-damned quality about it and I always feel slightly superior whenever I wear it. That hat has serious attitude. Not like what you get with your flat-brimmed hat wearers who, we all know, are either rap-stars or drug dealers. Neither of which, in my opinion, is a desirable station in life.
We have established, then, that baseball hats, provided they are worn front-wise and don’t have completely flat brims are cool things to wear. However, when one wants to impress, one needs to rise above the baseball accessories and seek something a tad more debonair. I recently purchased just the thing – a men’s straw Trilby hat that never fails to elicit compliments. This is a hat on a completely different level. Men who wear trilby hats are to be taken seriously. I like to wear mine at a slight angle over the brow so that it gives me an air of mystery. One could see James Bond wearing such a hat during one of his South American assignments. I love that hat! So much so that I use it as my profile photo now.
There are other hats of varying styles in my closet. I have a Australian Bushman’s hat with a wide brim to keep the burning sun from frying my neck off. Alternatively, it acts as an equally effective rain barrier in case of once-in-a-century thunderstorms. I also have a bright yellow Sou’easter hat that goes with my nautical rain gear. Nothing says knowledgeable mariner like a bright yellow Sou’easter. When you are in the company of such a hat-wearer, you know you are in the presence of a world-class sailor. Having said all this, it must be noted though that I have never been to Australia or even had cause to enter a bush lately. And my Sou’easter, though impressive, would be even more so if I had some kind of boat.
I have only just started my exploration of hat apparel. It has become very clear to me that Steve was on to something. If we can be defined by our possessions or by our professions why then can we not be defined by our hats? With careful determination we could shape the way others view us with something as simple as a properly aligned trilby. And if we are seen to be holding onto some dark secrets because of an oft-worn hat, well so much the better. Just don’t wear it on backwards. There are limits!
One thought on “Hats Off to Hats”
Another insightful article, thanks for posting it Paul. It’s got me to thinking about the role hats play in our lives. I’ve seen a picture of you in the trilby and it looks good and am glad those classic baseball caps are coming in handy. In my 20s I never wore hats (despite one girlfriend’s suggestion I wear a baseball cap) but now in my 40s I’m a baseball coach to my son’s team and regularly wear a baseball cap that says “coach” on the back (ask my 20-something self if I’d ever wear a baseball cap with “coach” stitched in the back and you’d have got a strange look). I suppose circumstances change and so do tastes.
Looking forward to future stories!