Today, I bought a proper hat.
I’ve been thinking about buying a proper hat for some time, now, and today was the day I put my money where my head is, which is directly above my neck. (In case the location of my head wasn’t obvious, you can now locate my head easily, what with the hat on it.)
You might be wondering what I mean by a “proper hat” because you are smart and curious. Indeed, I should clarify here because not everyone will agree upon what a proper hat might be. I mean, for some people, the only thing a woman should wear on her head is a bonnet. To those folks, a bonnet is a proper hat, even though really it’s a bonnet and isn’t that more headwear? Other people would consider a proper hat to be a straw boater — but those people are usually the three other guys singing in your barbershop quartet in Boston in the 1930s.
For me, a professional woman/grad student in the second half of her thirties living in downtown Chicago, a proper hat is one which:
- can’t be balled up and stuck in a drawer
- has been fitted for her by a Person Who Knows About Hats (such people often work in a hat shop)
- is appropriate for the season
- is stylish but not trendy (e.g., huge cloth flowers, extreme brims, hardware of any kind, etc.)
- can be repaired if need be
- comes in a hatbox
- serves a functional purpose
This last thing was the clincher. Until recently, I never saw hats as serving a purpose, exactly — not for me, anyway. They always seemed to be a fashion thing, an accessory, and sister, I got enough to worry about without some new wardrobe component to manage. I skipped hats because like, who needs ’em? Like, who actually needs them?
Well, me, when a few months ago, what used to be unequivocally good became slightly menacing.
I’m talking about the sun.
For most of my life, the sun on my face felt fabulous, just warm and good. Most people have this experience with the sun. And besides feeling great, the sun looks good on me! My anemic, Norwegian/Scots-Irish, pasty complexion gets an upgrade when I “get a little sun.” In the summer months I usually get some freckles, which lend me an air of vitality and sportiness (as opposed to the “19th century fainting couch” thing I’ve usually got going on.)
But freckles are not what I want anymore. At all. Maybe that whole “woman/grad student in the second half of her thirties” description of myself is the key, here. At 20, you can lay out, go to tanning beds, slather yourself in baby oil and who cares? Sun damage? Whatever! Grab the bucket of Coronas — let’s hit the beach! But when you’re thirty-something, such behavior is definitely no bueno. Sun damage starts to show up on a girl’s mug at my age, especially if she’s extra pale, though it’s hardly just my appearance I’m concerned about: Skin cancer is a very real thing I do not want in my life.
So. A couple years ago I began using a good daily sunscreen. The only time I’m tan is when a person sprays me with tan-colored paint. But sometime in late April, waiting to cross the street on a very hot, very bright day, I had my Hat Epiphany: A hat is practical because it will keep the sun off my face.
And, just like that, I began to make moves. Hat moves. I did research. I consulted sources. And today I got my hat at Optimo, the most glorious store, hat or otherwise, in all of Chicago — seriously. I wore my hat out of the shop and discovered that a proper hat affects your feet: It makes them skip!
My hat totally works, too. I know because the sun was shining.