April 1, 2020

The Bond Between a Man and His Hats

The other day my wife suggested that I discard a hat that I have owned for some time. Her exact words were, “How can you stand to put that grubby thing on your head? You have seventy-three hats, sixty-nine of which you’ve never worn. Get rid of it.”

Obviously, she does not know the bond between a man and his hats. They’re actually caps, but I call them hats, because you put a cap on toothpaste, and you put a hat on your head. There’s a big difference (unless it’s a ball cap). A man needs only six hats: One for fishing, one for golfing or softball, one for working on the car, another to wear to town and two for hunting (one orange, and one that looks like a pile of leaves). The actual number is reduced if he does not engage in any of the above activities. So, why do I need seventy-three hats?

First, you can never pass up the chance to get a hat (especially if it’s free) and you need different hats for different situations. There are many hats suitable for wearing to town that you can’t wear to church. Hats also get lost. You never know when the one you’re wearing will get sucked out the window of your pick-up and get run over by an eighteen-wheeler on the interstate. Therefore, you need to have at least one hat in reserve in every vehicle you own (including your boat). If you don’t, you may actually have to stop and buy one before you’ll be allowed into Home Depot. All of these situations cause hats to accumulate.

A hat does more than just cover your head, it tells other guys a little bit about who you are. When you see a guy with one of those leaf piles on his head, do you say, “There goes a lawyer?” Heck no, you say, “There goes a hunter,” and you look around to see if he’s got any dead animals tied to his car. If he’s wearing a yellow hat with the word “CAT” on the front, what do you think: “construction worker” or “veterinarian?” The simple process of changing a hat can change a man.

A hat also is important to many conversations. If somebody says something to you and you don’t know what to say back, you can always remove your hat and flick off some imaginary dust to buy some time. Sometimes, all it takes is to adjust it on your head, pull it down a little tighter or tip it back. But if you just stand there while you’re thinking, without doing anything, you look stupid. Five seconds can seem like an eternity.

Even though hats appear to be more flimsy, they actually are sturdier than they were years ago. In many of the new hats, a plastic mesh has replaced the cloth, and the brims are made of Styrofoam instead of cardboard. The old cardboard brims retained the shape better when you rolled it into a curve, but the new ones never get soggy and swell up. The new hats also have that plastic strap in the back that takes all the guesswork out of finding one that fits. One drawback is that it causes a serious pucker if your head is a little smaller than average.

I also have never been able to embrace the new fashion of wearing my hat backwards, because I don’t look good with a sunburned half-moon in the middle of my forehead. It’s bad enough having one in the middle of my bald spot. One area where these new hats don’t fare so well is in heat resistance. If you accidentally come in contact with a hot stovepipe or something, that clump of plastic that has now formed a permanent bond with your hair will bear little resemblance to a hat. That is, if you are fortunate enough to have hair covering that spot.

But the important thing is to resist the urgings of your wife. If it’s a good hat don’t throw it away just because it’s dirty. The world is constantly changing, and if you throw that hat away, you may never find another like it.

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