A Good Hat Hides a Lot of Bad Hair

The world is going to hell in a handbasket*, so let’s talk about hats.

No, I’m not crazy. The beauty salons being closed, my hair is growing out all catawampus. Any day now, I’m going to take the nail scissors to my bangs, not because it’s a good idea but because I hate the way they feel dragging on my eyebrows. Meanwhile, I have hats to hide the situation. Of course, once you wear a hat, you have “hat hair” and have to keep wearing it for the rest of the day, but that’s okay with me.

SombreroMy Facebook and Instagram followers may have seen me showing off other hats lately. Every hat has a story. Today’s hat is so beat up I should probably throw it away, but it has such precious memories.

I bought this brown suede sombrero in Tijuana on July 1, 1972. I remember the date because my boyfriend became my fiancé that day. We were visiting friends stationed at the Air Force base in Victorville, California. We crowded into their car and crossed the border, playing tourist for a few

 hours, then returned to their home in base housing where we got royally drunk on cheap red wine we drank from a leather bota bag. That night, my soon-to-be first husband and I got engaged and consummated the agreement in a sleeping bag on the floor. Ahem. The next day we drove out into the desert and did some target practice, shooting cans and rocks with pistols. I have photos of me wearing that hat, my long hair in pigtails, squatting and squinting as I shot the gun.

I loved that hat. A few months later, I wore it to an outdoor Pete Seeger concert in San Francisco. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people sat on beach chairs and blankets as the folk singer-banjo player got us all singing along and preached a gospel of peace, love, and kindness. He stood on that stage alone with no special effects, no backup band, just his skinny self. He played guitar and recorder, too, going on for hours. I knew that day that I wanted to do what he did, to sing and play and get everybody singing together. I swear it was a religious experience. I saw Pete twice more in Berkeley, but that first

Sue hat #2 41720

time was the best. By the time Pete died a few years ago, he had completely used up his voice, singing and preaching as long as he possibly could.

Somewhere that day, the braided leather band fell off that hat. Maybe it was a fitting place to lose it. The marriage didn’t last, but I have kept that hat all these years. I haven’t worn it in ages. It looks pretty bad, and if I had any sense, I’d throw it away, but . . . not yet.

Sue hat #3 41820I have lots more hats to wear. Many of them belonged to loved ones who have died. In addition to fedoras, cowboy hats, sun hats, bowlers, baseball caps, and fishermen’s caps, I have a whole basket of knitted and crocheted hats from the days when my mother and I were stitching fools. What I don’t have is the fancy hats we used to wear to church back in the days when Catholic women were required to cover their heads. I found them, along with our old mantillas (veils), when I was going through the house after Dad died, but I decided not to keep them. Not my style. I also found my Brownie and Girl Scout beanies, but I let them go, too. Ah, memories.

If, God forbid, I ever lose my hair to cancer or something else, I’ve got plenty of hats. Meanwhile, why not have fun with them?

I know some men whose heads I have rarely seen because they never go out without a chapeau. Fred, my second husband, got to wearing hats as his bald spot grew. He looked pretty good in them.

My dad had plenty of hair, right to the end, but he left me a hat, too, a brown tweed fedora. It still smells like him a little bit. I’m never giving it away.

It used to be that both men and women always wore hats when they went out. A bare head was just not proper. Now, not so much. How about you? Do you wear hats? Why or why not? Do you have any hats with special memories? Please share in the comments.

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*The phrase go to hell in a handbasket is an American phrase which came into general use during the American Civil War, though its popularity has spread into other countries. The origin of the term go to hell in a handbasket is unknown, the assumption is that the word handbasket is a good source of alliteration.–grammarist.com