A woman at a conference I was attending recently commented to me that she always looks forwarding to seeing me and seeing what kind of hat I’m going to be wearing. She told me that she always finds my hats to be handsome looking and wished more men would wear them. I smiled and thanked her for the compliment, delighted that my fashion peccadillo brings happiness to her. I was pleased that in a world full of people she found me interesting enough to remember and look forward to seeing again.
Simply put, I love hats. I like wearing hats, shopping for new hats, finding good deals on new hats, receiving them as gifts, and sharing my love of hats with others who are similarly afflicted with “hat head fever”. Of course, what’s not to love? Hats are stylish, they protect my balding head from sunburn, and they can be worn with just about any sort of outfit. Oh, and you can never have too many.
Lately, I’ve been playing around a lot with video and trying to learn the basics of filming and editing video. Beyond hats, I’ve long been addicted to YouTube and am fascinated by the glimpses this medium provides us of other places and the lives of other people. As part of this learning process I made a video when I visited the Goorin Brothers Hat Shop located in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC.
I specifically went into this hat shop because I am always on the prowl for another hat. I’ve order from them online and I visited their store in New York City last year, so I know that they have a wide selection of men’s hats, and such places are rare in the world. This puzzles me given my love hats and the fact that I never leave the house without one of many hats perched atop my head. Unfortunately, I seem to be in a very small hat-wearing minority.
If you go to the mall in Tallahassee you will find a small selection of fedoras, maybe a driver’s cap or two, in stores like Dillard’s and Macy’s but the selection will be very limited. The only store in the mall that even pretends to be any form of a haberdashery is a place called “Lids” that doesn’t really sell hats all, but sells high-end ball caps. Please understand, in my world a ball cap is not a gentlemen’s hat. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to wear them to a sporting event or on a fishing trip (although you get much better sun coverage from a proper sportsmen’s hat), but if you show up wearing one for Court or at a dinner party, you’re screaming “I’m a doofus” at the top of your lungs.
If you look at old photographs of men outdoors taken pre-1960’s, you’ll quickly notice that almost all the men wore hats. Often these photos display a sea of gray fedoras. Until very recent time a hat was an indispensable part of a man’s wardrobe. I recall an old lawyer whom I met in a rural courthouse one day commented on my hat and said to me “In my day, a man didn’t leave home without his hat…” he paused, and then added “…and a ball cap isn’t a hat” as he smiled at me.
If you’re guy who regularly wears real men’s hats, then you’ll also notice that there are some stupid leftover customs regarding hat wearing. The custom that a man takes off his hat in a building, whereas ladies don’t, is stupid and unrealistic in my opinion. Maybe in the old days when they had hat racks, but the problem in the modern world is that once you take it off, there’s no place to put it unless you want to carry your hat around in your hand all day. When you do find a place to leave your hat there’s always a good chance you’ll never see it again. A couple years ago I took off a prized brown fedora at a Rotary meeting and set it on the table to never see it again. In other instances, I’ve had to return to places to retrieve hats I’ve left behind.
There are a number of reasons I can give you in support of the benefits of men wearing hats. Certainly, there is the protection against sunburn and skin cancer for those of us who no longer have a thick head of hair. But I think the greatest advantage is the aesthetic value. With the exception of sportswear, men’s clothing is generally boring and uninspired. Our dress suits tend to be pretty much the same design and the colors rarely depart from grays, blues, black, and browns. Even business casual styles tend to be some sort of kaki or blue pants with a checkered or plaid shirt of some sort.
Unless we embrace the hat, men looking to distinguish themselves with a fashion statement are pretty much limited to trying to find a stylish tie, which will inevitably be cut in the length and width as all the other ties of the current fashion season. Hats give us a great platform for self-expression and uniqueness. I’ve found that my hats have become a trade-mark of sorts and that, for better or worse, I’ve become known as the guy who wears the hats. Hats can be customized with an almost endless variety of bands, pins, and feathers. They can be steamed to drop or curl a brim. A good hat will help people remember you and set you apart in the often infinite pool of humanity clothed in the conforming boredom of mass produced textiles.
So, that’s part of the deal for me with all these hats. I hope you’ll consider sporting your own unique chapeau next time you venture out into the world. I’m sure that, like me, you’ll find that your hats create opportunities for conversations and smiles with the people we meet. Remember, people are drawn to our authenticity, and by creating a bit of artistic self-expression with a good hat, you’ll find them drawn to you too.