“A hat should be taken off when you greet a lady and left off for the
rest of your life. Nothing looks more stupid than a hat.”
P. J. O’Rourke
Although I agree with O’Rourke’s sentiment, how can I explain the fact that I keep on buying hats anyway. For me hats fall into that unique category of things that you buy, but seldom ever use— like Veg-O-Matics, stationary bicycles, and Salad Shooters.
For example I just bought a brown felt hat that I will probably never wear. I was at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant and I figured it was almost winter and kind of nippy, the hat was 80% off, so why not. The hat itself is very cool. It is just that when I put it on, I never look like Harrison Ford. Also when I visualize other acquaintances I have seen wearing similar hats, I always decide that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.
I have also bought several of those English flat driving hats to no avail. I knew a very dapper psychiatrist in his 70s who could make those things look really good. But when I slide behind the wheel of my big old Mercury wearing it, I just don’t look all that sporty.
I think there is a serious amount of “Chapeau Envy” (you Freudians know what I mean) involved in hat purchases. At my last college graduation, I noticed that the stylish new university president was wearing a soft academic cap, rakishly pulled over to one side, instead of the usual stiff mortarboard. When my advisor, an older gentleman, saw it and said to me “I just gotta get me one of those hats.” I knew exactly what he meant.
Even in high school I was a slave to hat fashion. Several of the older and tougher boys began wearing berets, probably because of the popularity of the song, “The Green Berets”. I was too embarrassed to ask my folks for a beret (they would never understand) and too broke to buy one, so I rummaged through all of the old clothes in our attic and eventually found an old moth eaten beret. It was quite small, but sort of green in color. It had some sort of cloth badge stitched on it which I carefully removed. With some effort I could pull it on, although it really squeezed my cranium. Like the beret described by writer David Sedaris, it fit my head like the top of an acorn. I wore it around school for a week or so until some kid got a close look at it and announced to the whole football team, “Hey Stawar is wearing a Girl Scout hat, it’s just like my sisters”. I should have known that it was one of my older sisters’ hats– what was I thinking. I didn’t wear a hat for at least three years after that.
Although I always liked the idea of wearing a hat, I never liked the feel of them on my head. George Carlin once said that hats are strange because after wearing them for a while you no longer feel it on your head, but then when you take it off, it feels like you’re wearing a hat. I never liked that flashback hat feeling and hats make my head itch.
There are times however, when you have to wear one. Several years ago we visitedYellowstoneNational Parkin the wintertime. Before we left we went to an expedition store and I bought a fur cap, that they called the “Mad Bomber”— not very politically correct today. I imagined my self looking like Sergeant Preston of theYukon, but a glance in the mirror quickly disabused me of that notion, as the name Elmer Fudd came to mind. This fur hat is Russian looking and emphasizes my Slavic ancestry. I look like I should be plowing a beet field in some gulag, rather than arresting enemies of the Crown. I still wear this hat whenever the weather gets cold enough. It is very warm and itchy and people frequently complement me on it, although I always wonder if they are really laughing behind my hat.
As I think about it my new winter hat has “poseur” written upon it too boldly to wear in public. I am afraid it will soon be joining the Stetson Cowboy hat, the Dickensonian top hat, and the rest of the gang in the hall closet.