You’ve agreed to meet a friend for coffee, a friend whom you haven’t seen in some time. You’re excited, but cautiously so. Who knows who this friend has become in the intervening time? Has he gotten really into composting? Is he going to want to talk the entire time about some trip he took to Barcelona? Has he become a beer snob? Has he stopped drinking? Has he stopped showering? Has he embarked on some sort of elaborate revenge plot to extinguish everyone from his past that he’s found a reason to dislike? And then you see him as he comes into view walking toward you, pushing through a light crowd as he does. And it’s worse than you could have feared–he’s become a hat guy. He steps jauntily toward you wearing what is very obviously a hat and very unfortunately a fedora. The ensemble he has chosen to pair with his fedora is a t-shirt and shorts.
You’ve experienced this, or if you haven’t, you’ve woken up in a cold sweat reassuring yourself that it was just a dream, by the grace of the Almighty, just a dream. Hush now, my terrified soul, all is right with the world. There’s an inherent stigma with a man that’s chosen to become a hat guy, to walk the path of the haberdashered. Which is a real shame, because hats are objectively–when considered outside the context of douchebags in “Tag Out” t-shirts–pretty classy and well-crafted pieces of apparel. But that’s the thing: you can’t just put a classy thing on your head and expect it to make you respectable regardless of the choices you’ve made from the neck down.
Hats like the fedora, the bowler, and the pork pie were commonly worn in a time when showing yourself in public wearing less than a collared shirt, long slacks, and a blazer left you open to public disgrace and being called names like “crumb bum.” So trying to wear one of these refined pieces of headgear with a t-shirt and jeans is like trying to install a rooftop pool on top of a Quiznos.
And don’t take this as some kind of nose-look-down from a hat pro. I don’t own any of these kinds of hats because I don’t really want to commit to wearing a suit every day. Here’s why I don’t own the following types of hats:
- Fedora–Unless you’re dressed as well as, better than, or identical to Dick Tracy, you’re not fooling anyone. In its modern incarnation, this hat can be seen worn most often by burly guys at clubs I’m not cool enough to get into or by younger gentleman who just joined their high school swing club
- Pork pie–It seems like this is the preferred hat of that guy who’s always hanging out in record stores. He’s also constantly correcting people who call his hat a fedora
- Bowler hat–It doesn’t seem like this hat gets a lot of play these days. I’ve only seen one person wear a bowler in public; he was at a concert, and he didn’t stop rhythmically jumping up and down from the moment the concert started until it was over. I would love to wear a bowler hat, but I think I’d have to be traveling to an opera, solving a mystery, or standing with an apple in front of my face
- Baseball cap–I have nothing against baseball caps; they’re not even hats that you have to wear with any specific type of clothing. The only problem is that to wear a baseball cap, you have to convincingly look like you did at some point in the past or may at some point in the future actually engage in playing the game of baseball. I cannot accomplish this
- Flat cap–Trick question! I actually do own this hat (much to the chagrin of my wife). Most often, it calls to mind an old-timey cab driver or an old Irish man walking along the beaches of Dunkirk. My ancestral link to the latter is probably why I’ve convinced myself that I can pull it off
So where have all the hats gone, long time passing? You can thank one man for their death amongst the general public: John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Next time on Pygmanlion–Head Garnish, Part 2: This Time It’s Presidential.