Al Batt: Why do men wear hats? Hatters gonna hat.

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, April 4, 2023

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

A friend is fond of saying he’d forgotten where his head is.

Al Batt

He shouldn’t forget. It’s always under his hat.

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It was cold and I was going for a walk, so I donned headwear. It was a shabby, high-mileage cap carrying a logo advertising Zeiss, a leading technology enterprise operating in the fields of optics and optoelectronics.

I walked a trail where other hat wearers walked. One wore a smart-alecky hat with a message reading, “Sorry I’m late. I didn’t want to be here.” It was a bumper sticker for the head.

A noggin sticker.

One wore an “Alaska” hat. His wife bought it for him at a thrift store because he’d always wanted to go to Alaska. Now he wears a hat that had likely been there. The first step to getting to Alaska is to get a hat.

Is it a hat or a cap? The terms are used interchangeably, but, generally, a hat has a brim. A cap doesn’t have a brim and at most, it has a bill or a visor, like a baseball cap.

I added up all the hats I’ve owned and carried the nine before coming up with “I have no idea.” Two accountants from Ernst & Young were stymied. Baseball caps, softball caps, birding caps, farming caps, walking caps, dunce caps, stocking caps and caps supporting organizations. I have caps encouraging the Mavericks and the Eagles, sports teams involving family members. I’ve worn a hardhat and strutted around as if I knew what I was doing and a graduation cap while pretending to know more than I did.

Back when a local dispensary of adult beverages held Texas Hold’em events, guys wore lucky hats. Women once wore hats that incorporated not only feathers but entire bodies of birds. Some farmers have good caps they wear only to town. A hat trick is a series of three victories, successes or related accomplishments. Men collect caps — a hat trick and a reason to build another shed.

I’m a traveling man who favors dining in small towns. When I walk into a small-town pub, the music stops and every gimme cap-wearing head swivels my way as my eyes struggle with the diminished light. With but a cursory glance, all those swiveling heads dismiss me as some no account they didn’t know or need to know. The music begins again.

My wife gave me a Tilley hat when we perched in Texas. It comes with a lifetime guarantee and is incredibly floppy. I forgot I was wearing it (How does one do that?) and gave a talk on birds wearing the hat. There aren’t many birds wearing that hat.

My mother was a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys. She knew little about football, but liked them because their coach, Tom Landry, wore a fedora, a felt hat. My brother and I watched three quarters of a Cowboys game with Mother. At one of the everlasting commercial breaks, Mom asked, “Are the Cowboys wearing the dark- or the light-colored uniforms?” Without the fedora, she wouldn’t have been able to tell which one was her favorite team.

A fellow walker wore a cowboy hat. He moseyed. His friend told me the man was all hat and no cattle, a description fitting most cowboy hat wearers, including me. I recalled speaking at a Cattlemen’s Association banquet years ago. I was given a prime rib the size of a cowboy hat and it hadn’t been near a flame. It was so rare, it ate my corn and a good veterinarian could have saved it. The guy seated next to me, who hadn’t removed his cowboy hat, asked if I was going to eat it all. He ate most of it.

Not that many years ago, Aunt Ingeborg told a young man to take off his cap when he sat at our holiday table. He took umbrage at the demand and refused to remove his headgear, stormed out, hopped into his snazzy pickup truck and squealed away. The rubber on his tires was sacrificed to preserve his right to wear a hat at a table. I shudder to consider what would have happened had he insisted on keeping his head covered during the table prayer.

Hats off to Ingeborg.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.