“People are not wearing enough hats,” said one man in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, and it’s true. Look around, and you’ll see that very few people wear any hat other than the uglo-American baseball caps which tend to dominate the American bourgeois scene.
I remember my great-grandmother’s funeral, which took place when I was ten years old. She was born in 1890 and lived to be 98. They buried her in one of her finest hats. I remember thinking the whole thing quite strange. “Oh she just loved hats,” was the explanation from everyone. This only served to give me the impression that my great-grandmother had some kind of strange obsession with these funky headpieces.
One doesn’t have to go quite that far back, however. On a recent trip to visit my parents, I showed off my new fedora and was told to check with my grandmother, that my late grandfather used to wear such hats and that they might still be around somewhere. I couldn’t wear my dead grandfather’s hats; this seems somehow wrong. I was surprised to hear this, however; I could never remember him in a hat. Of course, I was nonetheless glad, for clearly my grandfather was man of good taste.
But my parents, aunts and uncles, and other family friends of the baby boomer generation never wore hats. What happened? I was sipping coffee with a colleague the other day who mentioned that there’s a theory that the reason people are not wearing enough hats has everything to do with the fact that John F. Kennedy did not wear one. This explains a lot; it’s also the number one reason always to wear a hat: It’s always fun to give a good poke in the eye to the JFK personality cult.
Happily, it seems as though those of us who are young enough to have suffered the cultural errors of the baby boomer generation have seen fit to change course on this whole hat thing. On a recent trip to the hat store, I was helped by someone no more than five years my senior, and he was perhaps younger than I. I see young men all the time in cool fedoras and Greek fisherman’s hats and other such dignifying headgear. The tables are turning.
But why should you jump on the bandwagon? Well, in addition to the aforementioned rejection of JFK-ness, there are many good reasons to wear a hat.
First of all, hats keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A wool fisherman and a straw fedora are indispensable to a man’s wardrobe. This is particularly true if you’re bald, as I am. This leads right into the next point: When a bald man wears a hat, he looks ten years younger. It’s a fabulous piece of vanity. This is even more of a help if you have an egg-shaped head: the hat brings all the proportions back into line quite nicely. It helps, too, to choose a hat that complements the eyes.
Wearing a hat is the mark of a well-dressed man. I have found many times that when I’m wearing a hat I get more respect from strangers on the street, and servers in restaurants are on their toes. They must think to themselves, “Surely a man with a hat like this has places to go and things to do. We don’t want to keep him waiting.”
I have also found that wearing a hat puts me in a better mood. It has all the uplifting qualities of coffee without any of the teeth-staining side effects. I suppose this should be obvious. Anyone would be happy when they’re wearing something that they know makes them look really damn good. There is another aspect of this hat-wearing pleasure, however: It really annoys pragmatists, those people most to be despised. They hate all things of true culture and beauty, including hats. This should serve as a reminder that not everyone will admire your love of hats, but this is to be expected. All marks of greatness are resisted by the militantly mediocre.
Friends, Fall is almost upon us, and it will soon be time to put the summer hats away for another year. This is a perfect opportunity to go out and search for a nice warm hat for your walks through the Autumn leaves. In fact, I think I just may go shopping today.
And remember that every time you put on a hat, you’re declaring independence from the personality cult of JFK.