I have strong opinions about hats. Well, maybe not strong, but I have distinct opinions about hats and hat wearing.
It all started with my straw summer hats. I have to wear sun hats because I am suspetible to horrible sunburns and an unfortunate allergy to most sunscreens. Straw hats have been a necessity for me for my entire life. And since I live in Chicago, I had to wear hats during the uninhabitable months…basically nine months out of the year.
However, my opinions regarding hats began to take shape when I bought my first structured (non-straw hat). It was a bowler hat named George. I’ll never forget the day; it was a February snowy day (well, there was snow on the ground). My boyfriend and I had spent a good part of the day wandering around the Graceland Cemetary in Chicago, seeing the great monuments that great men (and some women) built to themselves for death. On a whim, we decided to drive far west to the true six corners to Hats Plus, a men’s hat store.
There I finally bought my bowler hat. I had always had an inordinate amount of fondness for the bowler because of Rene Magritte’s Bowler hat man. This Belgium surrealist has been my favorite artist for most of my life. His pieces are playful and mysterious. And the bowler hat man epitomized that.
So we got to Hats Plus, which is a real splendid Chicago Institution, and were surrounded by an incredible assortment of hats. Fedoras, top hats (collapsble), hunting hats, you want it, they got it. They even had a range of bowler hats from $30 to $200 Oxford bowler hat. A nice spread. There I met George and we’ve been friends since. He’s been a good hat to me; I’ve mostly been good to him. (I did have to get him reblocked about two years ago since he got manhandled). We’ve spent nearly 3.5 years together. I wear George a lot to work, class, etc and many people associate it with me. Which is perfect.
But my interest in hats didn’t stop there. I started making my own hats…out of duct tape, card-stock and acrlic paint. For Santacon (a pub crawl where everyone dresses as Santa), I made a Menorah hat where I went as Hannukah Henrietta (yep, I’m a bit of a nonconformist). Or my lit lighthouse hat for my Carmen Miranda pirate Halloween costume.
Then somehow, I started collecting and wearing vintage hats. Now, I find situations to wear hats or sometimes, create them so I can wear certain hats.
There is also a special camadrie between hat wearers, especially bowler hat folks. When we see each other, we nod at each other.
It’s gotten to the point that it is strange, even shocking, when I leave the house without a hat. It’s almost to the point where I feel like I am missing pants or a shirt. It’s so natural for me to wear a hat. When I watch older movies, I am gleeful at the sheer number of hats. I yearn for the days when hats were essential. Of course, I really don’t since hats had significant class, gender and racial characteristics. My nostalgia is for a time I nevered lived in and probably would hate the limitations society would place on me (or those placed by me on myself). But I can yearn for the fashion.
i don’t know what it is exactly that I like so much about hats. It may have to do mystery that is envoked from Magritte. Or it may just be the sheer aestheticism of it. I like the look. But I think it’s a bit deeper than that. I think that hats, with some exceptions, make everything more glamourous. Maybe it’s because we wear hats to events which should be glamourous or at least special.
After all, shouldn’t we tip our hat at life?