Monday, November 19th, 2007
I’ve decided to become a hat person. I’ve always wanted to be a hat person, always felt like a hat person, always admired the fashions of bygone eras when hats were not only popular but necessary accessories.
But around here, the only type of hat worn with any regularity is an Alabama baseball cap. Just change up the team logo, and that goes for every other place I’ve lived, too, all in the balmy South.
Maybe that’s because it’s only cold enough to need a nice warm hat about three days out of the year, and on those days we just don’t go outside.
But it’s more than just that. According to my limited Internet research, hats fell out of favor in the late 1960s. Now, people who wear hats are viewed as eccentric, unless they’re Hollywood stars, in which case they are seen as crazy anyway so let them wear their silly hats if they must.
In the South, where eccentricity is viewed with more than the usual skepticism, there’s a stigma against wearing hats. I’ve been a part of more than one conversation where the parties involved agreed that people who wear hats are weird, pretentious and in extreme cases even worthy of loathing.
All this ire directed at hat-wearers kept me from becoming one. Every so often I’d succumb to the temptation to purchase a hat. In elementary school, it was the denim “Blossom” hat with a fake rose on the front. In middle school, it was the black cowboy hat. In high school, there was the green plaid bucket hat I still loathe pictures of myself wearing.
Later, there were straw hats bought at the beach and squashed into the top of the closet until they were irreparably misshapen by the next time I wanted to wear them. There was a 60′s fuchsia velvet hat I talked myself into at an antique mall and never wore. There was a black bonnet-like hat with an olive green leather flower on the side, worn once. There were at least two pale pink toboggans, each eagerly worn a few times in the winter any time there was even the slightest hint of a cold front.
But I was always too cowardly to become a real hat person. Every time I contemplated wearing one of my few hats, I’d take it on and off a dozen times before I left the house, terrified of being labeled as “trying too hard.” If I wore hats, people would think I was trying to make some kind of statement, be the center of attention, or become a goth kid.
I think, too, that I was afraid of being labeled an eccentric because I wasn’t worthy of the title. In a hat, I’d feel like a conformist in eccentric’s clothes, which is way less interesting that someone who truly embraces their oddities and moves through life not caring what others think.
Then last weekend, at a little antique store in Ocean Springs, Miss., I found a hat, my hat, the perfect hat. A cap covered with pheasant feathers in brown and black with accents of green and red that blended with my hair and coloring perfectly. Wearing the hat and the vintage fur stole I bought last spring, I’d look like a flapper or a 1940s femme fatale (okay, probably more like the nice girl the femme fatale steals the man away from).
Over the week, I fell more and more in love with the little hat and the way I looked in it and the idea of hats in general. It occurred to me that these days, I’m way more in touch with my unconventional side than I used to be. Whereas in my younger years, I spent a lot of time pretending – to myself and others – that I was just like everyone else, now I’m perfectly satisfied to be strange.
I’m glad I won’t be choosing my future children’s names from the Top 10 list (or even the top 100) and glad that I live in an old house (got to be at least slightly “touched in the head” to do that, right?). I’m glad there’s a giant mannequin in my guest room, glad I still like children’s movies, glad that my ringtone is a song from Hairspray, and glad that my idea of a good time is putting on a dust mask and tearing out plaster at my neighbor’s house (even without alcohol).
In other words, I think I’m finally grown up enough to be me, and by golly, that me is a hat person.
But I can’t be a hat person without hats, so I went on eBay this weekend and spent a pleasurable hour perusing the vintage hats. A few of the affordable little darlings are on their way to me already, including a darling green tam and a black sequined cap. I’m giddy at the prospect!
Edited to add: