Do you believe that hats and caps can evoke, provoke, protect, name, and claim us? I do.
I wear hats. Often. Maybe you do, too! Functional. Funky. Stylish. Boiled wool, fur, fleece, canvas. A saucy beret, wide brimmed straw, even a Tilly that travels to exotic locales. But, truth be told, most days I prefer an old fashioned ball cap.
A worthy ball cap needs a good bill—dark colored on the underside since it’s all about glare, or so my Mother first proclaimed while we were at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. My head is on the large size, so I need an adjustable tab to avoid an elastic band induced headache. And, my ideal cap includes a gap in the back so my long straight hair has a readymade ponytail holder. While working on a college campus, a professor once asked me why the girls in his class so often wore caps. I explained, rather bemused that he didn’t know, “caps are perfect for a bad hair day, and women don’t need to take them off indoors or sitting at the table!”
Hats speak. Headgear tells our story, in subtle, often unspoken sentences and intuitions. The next time you talk to someone who is wearing a hat, ask them about it! There is almost always a story, and it may be a great conversation starter with a friend, or stranger.
Hats I have known and loved …
- For a reason unbeknownst to me, my vibrant orange softball cap from sixth grade has traveled through every move I’ve made. It’s much too small now, and the wool still itches. At age eleven, when I made the last out, in the last inning, of the last game of the season, I wore that cap. I’m really not sure why I’ve kept it all these years.
- As a kid, every holiday, my great aunt mailed us a Robinsons department store hat box. Bonnie was the hat buyer, and surely had a glamorous life living in Los Angeles. We didn’t always wear fancy dresses, but my sister and I sported sensational hats! I still have these, too.
- I’ve lost count of ball caps. I have favorites for a season of time, depending on place and relationship. The gold and green CSU cap was much loved, and a teal colored Nike Just Do It seems to reappear now and again. I have a cap cleaning secret, and former college students knew they could drop by my house around dinnertime for a place at the family table. A full belly and clean cap invariably accompanied their departure a few hours later.
- In my twenties, I wore a jaunty Peruvian hat out on the town. The black brim shaded my shyness and face, just so.
- My very expensive chocolate brown western hat came from a store in Laramie, Wyoming. I just realized I treat it like some people treat their fine china. Oops.
- The best straw beach hat ever made hangs on a wall peg in my bathroom. It came from California, and whispers promises of sand and salt …
- My white Tilly is synonymous with outdoor adventures, and evocative of people and places. I think I wore it when I caught a big Chinook salmon. I know I wore it in the Yucatan jungle—the time I climbed to the top of a Mayan pyramid ruin, and then realized I had to climb back, down.
- I have the perfect red Angels cap. An “A” with a halo. And my own rally monkey.
- There’s a woven Guatemalan beret my brother and I found and fought over while wandering in Georgetown, Washington, DC. We shared it until I moved to another state. I wonder if he still misses it.
- Black. Angora. Beret. Had to stop wearing that one. Too many comments about a woman named Monica.
- Survival of my first winter in Alaska can be partially attributed to the gift of a leather and coyote fur hat. A wise woman explained that fur really could save my life in Alaska. I know I was warm and chic—even if my only admirers were of the four-legged dog and moose variety.
- Everyone should own a red and black checkered wool cap, with ear flaps. My Dad bought me mine at a gas station in northern Minnesota. Yes, a gas station. It matches my Pendleton—that belonged to Granny.
- Then there’s the multicolored fleece from Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, the boiled wool I convinced my Mom to knit for me, my favorite Xtreme Guide—I’m not—waterproof fishing cap, and the newest addition that I anticipate wearing soon … a spectacular woven fur in a hoodie-scarf combo.
I’ve entirely skipped the helmet category. That includes a blue and white Shimano for motorcycles, the Bell for mountain biking, and, and. I’ll save writing about helmets, scarves, and veils for another rainy day.
Is it true? Can hats and caps evoke, provoke, claim, and name us?
What does your favorite hat evoke? Do stories travel in your head coverings?