The Day I Bought My Hat.

This isn't my hat, but it's pretty darn close. Montecristi hat, Optimo. Image: Wikipedia.
This isn’t my hat, but it’s pretty darn close. Montecristi hat, Optimo. Image: Wikipedia.


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.

9 Responses

  1. Carmen
    | Reply

    Curious minds want to see the actual hat upon the actual head! You know, for science.

    • Mary
      | Reply

      Good point! Check Facebook in about two seconds, here… 🙂

    • Melinda Seegers
      | Reply


  2. Phyllis
    | Reply

    I wear hats when outside, shopping and visiting friends. The sun and light shining down into my eyes triggers migraines. Yes, I have hat head, but hat head is so much better than a migraine.

  3. Claire
    | Reply

    Optimo is great. My husband has hats from there and most importantly they have mended hats for him. Congratulations on your skin saving invesment!

  4. Kathryn Darnell
    | Reply

    I am smiling at the thought of you wearing a hat. Makes my day start off with a kick, jump, hop and a skip! I love hats so much so I was part of those old Red Hat Ladies just so I could wear a hat. Now red is my Mom’s favorite color and sort of gravitate to red myself (it’s a genetic thing). Mary, wear that hat and people will move over to let that ‘Important HAT Lady’ pass them by!

  5. Sarah
    | Reply

    Hooray for your hat and your skin! Did the store give you an elastic that will help keep it on your head when the famous Chicago wind blows? Hope so.

  6. Tim Owen
    | Reply

    Congrats on the start of your collection of hats! It starts with one!

  7. Dispenser Blog
    | Reply

    Bought A Kick Off A Great Time With Chicago

    […] ats when outside, shopping and visiting friends. The sun and light shining down […]

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