Friday, August 13, 2010

The Hat Makes the Man

George Herriman (RIP)

Hasil Adkins (RIP)

Dennis Hopper (RIP)

Tom Waits

Billy Childish

Nick Tosches

Jerry Lee Lewis (with Chuck Berry, sans headcoat)

J.T. Dockery

J.S. Holland

I'm a hat man, let's draw that line in the sand right now.

Around these parts, we generally ascribe to the philosophy that a man ought not to leave his house without his headcoat in place. Once upon a time, it was unthinkable that a man would be seen in public without a hat, a dress code which lingered into the 1960s and slowly faded away. While I can say we don't maintain a staunch conservatism upon the subject, it just makes sense for a man to wear a hat.

Being that the standard for men's clothing did fade, for those of us still keeping the light lit in the darkness, a common question I get is, "Where do you buy your hats?" And at one point in time, I could proudly retort that I visited my own old school hat shop, the Mad Hatter, in Lexington, Kentucky. But don't try and find it; it's not there. Thanks to a misguided development deal, that particular kind of family owned retail remnant in my stomping grounds no longer remains.

Gone are the days when I could ramble into the Mad Hatter when it was time to get a new hat, take a lady with me to get a woman's input on the choices, and enjoy being friendly with the African-American ladies, always on a mission to refresh their fancy new Sunday numbers. And I will point out, the brothers and sisters stereotypically (and this is a good stereotype), keep the dream alive. Statistically, I get more comments on my hats from middle aged black men in Lexington than anyone else. My favorite quote from a Lexington resident of the black persuasion in the grocery store, signifying, "Somebody's done took himself to Mad Hatter!"

Just like the silence that settled over the torn down city block, a silence, and darkness, has settled on my own personal experience of hat purchase. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's what everybody is doing, we gotta take the headcoatitude to the internet...

There are plenty of stores online, as many of the last of a dying breed have taken it from the city block to the world wide web. What can be confusing is that brand name hats usually don't sell their hats from their own websites, but most have handy directories which lead to the retailers who do deal in their wares.

First of all, you need to know your hat size. Large, medium, and small are not hat sizes in a man's world. You may be a gentleman, a pimp, both, or neither, but for me the classic dress style hat, which reached its design peak for me in the 1930s up until the 1960s, is always the way to go. I'm a Stetson man myself, just like grandpa and RUN-DMC (stay away from the western themed stores, try Levine, Falkoffs, or the Hat Guys). If you find yourself thinking, "aren't Stetsons cowboy hats?" You are so naive. I suggest Beaver Brand as a second choice, because they make a good hat, and you can't beat the name. Beyond that, you're on your own.

The ideal hat, if properly taken care of, lasts a long time, and I stick to what works and care for it, as opposed to amassing a huge hat collection with lots of brands. This is also why I don't mind investing a decent amount of scratch into a good hat. The Stetson I'm sporting above is from a photo taken in the winter of 2010, and I've had that particular hat for at least ten years or more.

Don't forget your friendly neighborhood thrift stores, consignment shops, your Goodwills, and your Salvation Armies, if you're willing to cruise for treasure. I have found a couple hats this way, but being that this old boy is packing a big old noggin, it's rare that I find a hat that fits in a second-hand environment.

This reporter has noted that hats have made something of a comeback with the kids, and, therefore, it's not as difficult to find them in the men's section of your garden variety department stores. I even can cop to having purchased a decent slouch hat at Target for about 15 bucks to wear as an expendable work-horse hat. But many of these hats in such retailers stink of the teenybop, and can be sorta silly-looking, more Justin Timberlake on vacation than classic male apparel.

The clothes make the man. If you can't get yourself to Lansky's, get creative and go hunting on the web, digging in the thrift shops. With a little luck and a dash of good taste (and hopefully some good deals), you'll be a man, my son.



Transylvania Gentlemen said...

Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo is also sportin' the good hat, and don't forget Ol' Blue Eyes himself.

- - JSH

Anonymous said...

As always, you're very prescient as there is a segment on the CBS Evening news about the resurgence of the popularity of clssic style hats tonight.

Another note, I think Fedora's also make cute young women cuter.

Anonymous said...

My favorite hat is this red felt number that's a cross between a goth looking, old school pimp, and Kentucky Derby hat that I wear on my Monsterpiece Theatre shows on the baph777 youtube channel.

I bought it in the Glyndon Hotel's gift shop way back in the nineties.

I remembered that the man that was a popular radio presenter that worked at WEKU and that died of cancer was visiting the elderly gentleman that worked as the hotel's desk clerk, and the radio presenter (sorry, but I forget his name after all these years) said that I looked like a real cowboy wearing my red hat.