Friday, March 28, 2008

The Perfect Hat

I own eighteen hats, maybe more. Three no-name stingy-brims; two Panamas (Panamas are from Ecuador, by the way, not Panama); a mink ushanka from Russia; a beautiful 7X Beaver Stetson Gun Club (which no doubt wins title of Hat with the Coolest Name); a finely woven Peruvian farmer's hat; two Mexican cowboy hats; a camouflage bucket hat from Iraq with my name in Arabic embroidered on the front (courtesy of a reporter friend); a Stetson Open Road (which I love but never wear because, being a skinny white dude with glasses, I look like a total idiot under it rather than a wandering stud), two Kangols, three or four baseball caps and several others that I can't think of at the moment.

Despite owning all these hats, and although I hunt for a new hat nearly every time I travel, I've never found the perfect hat. In the end, the hat that I travel with the most, I have to admit, is the baseball cap. I wish I could say my tried and true travel hat were my Stetson Gun Club or the Open Road, but function beats form every time*. I can't shove one of the Stetsons in my pack without ruining it. The brim on the Gun Club (not to mention the stingy brims) isn't wide enough to block the sun from my eyes. I could wear one of my cowboy hats, but, not only do they make me look like a complete dork, they're impossible to deal with on planes and buses and, once again, I can't crumple them up and shove them in my pack when I need to.

My wool Kangol is great for traveling in cold places, but, for obvious reasons, tropical weather renders it useless. I have a summer Kangol which I long ago took to Argentina, only to realize it made me look like I was trying to don traditional Argentine garb and, rather than making me feel like the pretty-groovy dude that I am, made me feel, uh, like a poser. I'd love to take my giant paja toquilla (aka, Panama) hat along with me, but it's too cumbersome to be useful anywhere but on the banks of a river or in the garden.

So I'm back to the baseball cap.

Although it's entirely unstylish, I simply haven't found a hat that beats it in terms of function. It blocks the sun from my eyes. In a headwind, I can flip it around so it doesn't blow off my head**. When I'm taking photos, I can flip it around and the brim doesn't smash against my camera. It never loses its form when I toss it my pack. I can swim with it on. It works when it's wet. And it's still not as dorky as one of those REI/North Face-style synthetic, foldable adventure hats (oh yeah, I own one of these, too) that scream "Yankee Tourist" anywhere outside the United States. It's just as good as any other hat at doubling as a sack when doing things like picking fruit, gathering nuts or whatever. It's washable. Cotton is breathable.

It's almost perfect. It's only downfall, besides its utterly un-Hunter S Thompson ubiquitousnous, is that it doesn't shield my ears from the sun (although adding a bandana underneath solves that problem). But that's OK. When it comes to travel, I'm still a far greater fan of function than I am of form. And, although I fantasize, I'm no Hunter S.

*If I were truly beholden to function over form, I'd probably suck it up and wear one of those synthetic travel hats, but I just can bring myself to do it, although I have tried, albeit when backpacking in the middle of nowhere rather than when traipsing round populated areas.

**I've lost at least three caps to headwinds when I've forgotten to do this, once from a skiff in Argentina, once from a panga in Mexico and once from the back of a truck in Ecuador. This actually proves another value of the baseball cap: it's easy to replace.


Blogger Matt Reed said...

Ah the hat. I must profess that I too have a thing for hats. As well, I own hats in most of the categories that you mentioned. My favorites being my Stetson being my 4X Beaver I inherited from my grandfather and a Stetson I won at a poker table at Binon's in LV.

But for the reasons that you well pointed out, you cannot beat the functionality of the baseball cap. And while the ball cap is universal in that you can find them anywhere, finding one with the perfect shape is another matter.

Being formerly in the streetwear apparel business, I have seen many ballcaps and they are all not created equally. And don't even get me started on the trucker cap. A ball cap for me, needs to fit my head snugly, as well as keep the sun out of my face and off the top of my head - yeah the ears get punished and fuck the bandana.

While i am not into making a fashion statement, certain amount of choice needs to be put into what is on the hat. Therefore, I look to find my hats in the odd places that visit. My current favorite is a generic Anvil ballcap with Molokai embroidered on it.

They turn into rags much like your favorite flannel shirts, that my wife convenient helps me misplace, prompted me to start the quest anew.

Damn where is my cap btw...

12:55 PM  

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