Getting a new hat is always an exciting experience. In fact, there are very few things that are more exciting then finding a new hat to use to cover up a bald spot (of which I have none) or grey hairs (one of which I have in my beard) or simply to cover up wild, unkempt and badly in need of a trim hair (bingo!)

Recently, I came to acquire a great new derby cap from my friend Andrew. Andrew is a spry fellow, of small frame and rather in shape. His head size is rather normal, perhaps a bit smaller than average but much smaller than my own. Then again, most interplanetary objects are smaller than my head. Digressions, digressions…

The damn hat.

Anyways, out of the kindness of his heart (and the man doth possess much kindness) he gave me the derby cap. Which fits rather snugly over my huge head and huge head of hair. Having finally found a hat that fits me (both literally and fashionistically) I now undergo a process that separates the true hat wearer from the mere hat semi-enthusiast: breaking in the hat.

You see, even when a hat fits well, it does have to adjust to the contours of your skull. Hats are designed to fit all heads but require a little “help” to get to the right shape. This is where breaking in the hat comes into play. Essentially, the only way to break in a hat is to wear it all the time. Currently, I am not wearing my hat: it sits in the back of my Explorer. Not sure why I left it in the back, especially when I need to be breaking it in properly.

Oh, I know why: I have yet to properly break myself in to the hat. You see, just as the hat must be broken in for the user, the user must be broken into the hat. A hat, especially of the non-baseball cap style is a bold fashion accessory. And for somebody like me who has never wore hats, its a pretty big change up in my appearance.

Suddenly becoming a hat wearer finds the hat owner surrounded by people grinning wryly at the fashion change. “Nice hat” they say with a smile. A confident hat wearer with years of experience will smile, nod and say “thank you, I do look dashing don’t I?” Somebody without those years of experience (such as myself) may find themselves feeling a bit…embarrassed by the new attention.

This is the sociological problem that comes in with buying and wearing a hat: the stares and the jeers. I feel like I look good in the hat: however, slight embarrassment at now owning and wearing a hat (an overnight thing to which you cannot slowly acquiesce yourself). It’s like throwing on a leather jacket out of nowhere: people look at you different, some with true admiration, mothers with slight bemusement.

Not mine but similar.

Ironically, I regularly wear a leather jacket in the fall and spring months. However, I’ve had that jacket for years and have wore it frequently. It’s no longer a shock to see me rocking a leather jacket. As of yet, I’m still shocked when I put on my hat (“what’s this strange object I put upon my skull?”) and am not used to the looks, the smiles, the (potential) snickers, the finger pointing and the comments.

Most of these comments will disappear once I’ve wore the hat, say, a week or two and everyone within my (rather small) circle of friends, family and acquaintances sees me wearing the hat and gets used to it. Just today, I hung out with my friend April who commented “nice hat!” with a smile and sincerity I did not doubt. However, that won’t be the case with everybody.

Another thing I was unprepared to deal with when it came to my hat was the sweat. I went for a walk with my friend Kevin while wearing the hat. I was trying to break the damn thing in and getting the hat out in the public for all to see. Friends saw me, beeped the horn and I’m sure they noticed the hat. Nice. Later, they will make comments but for now I avoided most of them.

However, as we walked, the day grew warmer and my own body temperature warmed due to the physicality of walking two hours (and alternately wearing and carrying an ill-advised leather jacket). I took the hat off to scratch my head at one point and I felt the sweat that had soaked into the band. I was not disgusted or grossed out per se. More confused and surprised: I honestly hadn’t thought of the potential of a sweaty hat.

Either way, I find the experience of breaking in a new (and for me slightly unprecedented) fashion accessory. UGH! I hate to call anything I wear a “fashion accessory” (as I consider most of the things I wear to exist solely to keep me warm and out of prison for public lewdity) but what else can you call it? Watch out fashion world: here comes Eric with his generic derby hat to take the world by storm.

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