I wear a hat. Winter, summer, fall, spring, I wear a hat. You can see it in my profile picture, my avatar, and in my Facebook profile. My wife can find me in the store or the mall, because I wear it. My grandkids grin, because I wear it. My kids call me Indiana Jones, because I wear it. My granddaughter likes it when I play peek-a-boo behind it. And of course she looks absolutely adorable in it when she swipes it from my head and puts it on hers, usually when I’m driving and she’s sitting behind me.
Before I hit my forties I never saw myself as a hat person. My Dad first suggested I start wearing one after he noticed he was getting sick less often once he formed the habit, particularly in the winter. He kept on suggesting it and, as my hair got thinner, the more sense it made.
Now I’m a form follows function kind of guy so when I started looking for “the hat” it had to be the right one. It had to keep the sun out of my eyes, the rain and snow off my glasses and off my neck, and keep my head warm, all while looking “right” on me. The classic baseball cap served no useful purpose other than to make a fashion statement – don’t waste my time. My search began, lasted for several years, and ended at The Nature Company store in downtown Toronto that we visited on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. There it was, “the hat”, an almost khaki colored fedora, felt, broad brim, narrow leather band, crushable and packable, a very functional and serviceable hat. It was perfect, and I’ve worn it every cold day for the last seventeen plus years.
A few brief years later “the hat” became two hats as I realized being outdoors during the warmer months without a hat was creating serious sunburn issues up where I actually used to have hair. The fedora was way too hot for summer wear, so the search began again, for the next perfect hat. It ended in a little shop in Tubac, Arizona. There it was, perched on the rack, a Bush Hat by Barmah Hats of Australia. Called a “Foldaway Cooler”, it has a broad leather brim, flat leather top, a crushable mesh crown and a braided leather band. It has become my second perfect hat and I wear it every warm weather day for work, play and gardening, any outdoor activity including just going to and from.
I was wearing “the hat” on Fathers’ Day when my wife and I plus S and L went for a cruise on the Grand Lady riverboat, the Sunday Picnic Cruise (bring your own food; buy beverages of your choice on board). It was a really great afternoon cruising the Grand River and seeing a nesting pair of Bald Eagles and several herons gliding low over the water. It was a beautiful day and a great way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon for just fifteen dollars per adult ticket (I promised I’d put in a good word). But I digress.
While on the cruise we had the pleasure of listening to one of my favorite jazz musicians and a local celebrity, Tom Hagen, perform. We’ve heard and seen him perform at Jazz at the Zoo the last few years and have developed a real appreciation for his music. I was planning to go introduce myself at some point during the cruise and tell him how much we enjoyed his music, but to my surprise, during the break he came over to our table and asked if he knew me from somewhere. I was briefly flustered and thought for a second and then volunteered that perhaps it was at the concerts at the Zoo. He agreed and we thought maybe it was “the hat”. S and L, and Deb also agreed and suggested that “the hat” was probably becoming my trademark. At any rate, we had a nice chat and closed out the conversation with expectations of seeing each other at the Zoo last night where he was again playing. Then he got back to business and we said a brief goodbye at cruise’s end.
Last night we attended another great Tom Hagen ensemble performance at the Zoo. Immediately after the show I headed toward the stage. He beamed as I stepped up to shake his hand and thank him for another wonderful evening. It was “the hat”. Tom said he saw me out there in the crowd of about a thousand or so, and commented that there were quite a few hats but none like mine. It was definitely “the hat”, my trademark or so it seems.
I actually like being identified by “the hat”. It’s a reminder of who I am, practical and down to earth, a bit of a loner, and a little outdoorsy in the camping sense. At the same time it helps get me out of my shell and get a little playful and adventurous. And I guess it serves as a good conversation starter with the occasional local celebrity!
So what’s the point of this post, nothing really. It just seems to me that if you’re going to wear a hat you ought not to jam a baseball cap on your head backwards and call it good. What’s the point of that? Fashion, affiliation, or being “cool” or “in” I suppose. And maybe that makes sense; maybe it’s the perfect choice for some folks. On the other hand, maybe getting a little older helps me make sense of things and question things that don’t make sense, at least to me.
Function over fashion, and a little common sense thrown in; it works for me. Now excuse me while I go look for my plaid Bermuda shorts, black socks, and dress shoes … it’s time for a walk.