Granddad had a disgusting straw hat, which he usually hung from a 16-penny nail inside his garden shed. It was typical of a thing that would disgust many women, including his wife, my grandmother. With a dark brown ribbon of stain from his perspiration and a similar circle on the crown, it was a how-can-you-wear-that object to some.
Of course, to complete the stereotype, many women are astonished when men continue to wear perfectly good underpants, except for those several growning holes. Even if no body parts fall out, the briefs are fine for the man, but not for the woman who sees them.
Thus, his straw hat was likewise fully functional to keep his bald head from burning and his brain from sunstroke. He had snuck away at 14 to join the AEF illegally fighting the Hun. He returned lesser in having gotten trench mouth causing him to lose his teeth, and in becoming pretty damned bald in his late teens. He somehow attributed losing his hair to the war, although looking at his sons and grandsons, genes seem to be the key players here.
Regardless, he needed a hat. He’d been wearing one in his gardening for many decades before I worked with him 4, 6 or 8 hours on summer days. His patches as he called them were one or two acre-sized farms, requiring a lot of time in a lot of sun.
His hat started out as an off-white/natural sub-fine straw piece, before its degradation. He carried handkerchiefs and wiped his brow, face and whole head, but the hat showed the effects of prolonged heat.
In fairness, his garden hat was not the floppy, hillbilly style of the patriarch Amos in a TV show of the era, The Real McCoys. An Amos capture is to the left. On the other hand, it was also not the finely woven Panama of the plantation owner or dandy.
While not a big clothing and furnishings customer, I thought of Granddad’s hat recently. Not only did I track down powerful glasses, but I bought a new straw.
Pretty bald myself, I have hats. I do wear baseball caps, particularly if the sedan’s roof is open. Yet, I’m no more a baseball cap guy than I am a short-sleeve button shirt one.
My other hats are largely felt, beaver and otherwise, and brown. I’d had a natural straw, but did not keep it into its ugly age. Instead, we’d been seeing the splash about the JP hat store, Salmagundi. My wife and I visited and each got a straw hat, she a cloche and I the Stetson mixed-brown Chester.
I walked in fully expecting to replicate my idea of straw hats. I’m not a boater hat guy either. I do tend to think in natural Panama fedora styles. However, the enthusiastic Salmagundi help were all over me.
I remember my childhood growing up with a mother and sister, and often being sure to bring something to read while I sat in the husband chair at a clothing or shoe shop. They’d try on this, that, and the other. I would tend to go into either type of store when I really needed something and leave quickly with exactly what I entered to buy.
Instead this weekend, it must have been a dozen hats of various shades of white/tan/brown, different weaves and densities, and several styles. Much to my surprise, I had to agree with my wife and the main fitter that the Chester was the best of the bunch for me.
It’s likely to be quite awhile before I buy another straw hat. I did leave the store thinking I might have to indulge my ideal of a natural-color Panama. I suppose the occasional attention to fashion won’t turn me into a fop. On the other hand, there are those yellow glasses, which each of the clerks in the hat store praised, as have friends, waitrons and even folk on the street.
Is this fashion stuff addictive?