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Opinion: Trying to pull off the old hat trick

The Madera Tribune File Photo

The author peruses various hats to wear.


First published in The Tacoma News Tribune, Tacoma on June 17, 1984.

Even though it is not likely to result in my being pictured on the fashion pages any time soon, it has become my habit over the past few years to wear a hat.

I wear a hat whenever the wind blows, whenever it rains or snows, and whenever the sun shines.

This is because over the past few years the hairs on top on my head have been packing their suitcases and moving to better territory. The only hairs left are those which haven’t been able to scrape together the air fare (hair fare?) for the flight south. There are so few hairs left now that they are barely close enough to shake hands, let alone hold onto each other for companionship in the event of weather emergencies.

When the wind blows, my hairs stand straight up and try to run away.

When it rains or snows, my hairs nearly drown and can only be revived by cardiofollicular resuscitation.

When the sun shines, they curl out of the way, leaving my scalp as susceptible to first-degree burns as a hanky on an ironing board.

The only solution to all this has been to wear a hat, even though hats are the sartorial equivalent of large hood ornaments on cars.

Hats, in fact, went out about the same time as large hood ornaments, and although hood ornaments are making a comeback in a small way, hats are still the exception rather than the rule.

What is most fashionable for heads now, of course, is hair — the more of it the better. Since I don’t have any hair to speak of, and have no hope of being fashionable from the eyebrows up in any case, I have opted for shelter from the elements, which hats provide.

The problem I have with hats, other than their innate unfashionability, is that they make me look like a goofball. Other people look fine in hats, but when I wear a hat I always look like I am on my way to a costume party.

The effect is the same, regardless of what sort of hat I wear.

Indiana Jones, for example, cuts a romantic figure in his black felt hat with the broad brim. When I wear a hat like that, I look more like Indiana Schmidlap.

When a sports-car driver wears a nifty little English driving cap, he looks like he just stepped out of the pages of Esquire. When I wear a cap like that, I look like the hat bird came along and built its nest on my head.

When a truck driver wears a hat that says, “Champion Sparkplugs” on the front, he looks tough. When I wear a hat like that, I look like the hat bird laid an egg in its nest and is waiting none too happily for the egg to hatch.

My difficulty, I think, is that hats are made to be worn on heads that look like heads. My head, to my endless chagrin, looks like a spaghetti squash. There have been few, if any, hats designed for spaghetti squashes.

When I go to a place which sells hats, it is as though I had entered a foreign country without a passport. The sales clerks look at me as though I have no business being there, and I get the distinct impression that if I don’t leave soon, they may call the security man.

The other day, I went into a hat place to try on a few numbers, and it was humiliating. It being close to summer, I tried on a few straw hats which I thought looked as though they might give me the air of having just returned from a vacation on the French Riviera. I put one on my head which had looked especially good on the hat rack. It was off-white with a light brown band and a broad brim.

“How do you like this?” I asked the saleslady.

“I will only sell it to you,” she said, “if you sign a release which holds me harmless from any damages you may incur as a result of acute embarrassment.”

Unfortunately, not all sales people are as ethical as that lady. A few years ago, I happened to be in a ritzy tourist town where I saw several people wearing large leather hats with wide brims, styled as the sort you see on Clint Eastwood in Hang ‘Em High. The hats made their wearers look like romantic outlaws. Just the sort of thing I need, I thought. I went into a store which sold such hats and tried one on.

“That hat makes you look like a romantic outlaw,” said the sales lady, who was wearing hardly anything, it being summer and quite warm. “The women are very fond of that look,” she added.

I viewed myself in the mirror.

“Not exactly Clint Eastwood,” I thought. I was about to express that opinion when the half-clothed sales lady put her arm around me and gave me a little hug.

“Oh,” she squealed, “You look so — so — oooooo.”

Well, that did it. I bought the hat and wore it out of the store. Passing the window of a bank, I paused to look at my reflection.

“Hummm,” I thought, “it is quite arresting.”

“You hang around here much longer, buddy,” said a six-foot-five bank guard who had emerged from inside and grabbed me by the arm, “and I’ll have you arrested.”



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