COLUMN: Needed fast, a hat stylist

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Vince Luecke
editor@perry countynews.com

I’m not a man overly worried about how he dresses. I’m a casual dresser, wash-and-wear through and through. My pants are tight, though they weren’t when I bought them. My shirts are sometimes wrinkled, I never shine my shoes and my socks somehow always draw lint. I don’t even own a lint brush.
I mismatch colors, wear corduroy slacks in warm weather – I just learned that is a no-no – and wear horizontal stripes even though they make me look portlier than I am.
But I am in a rare fashion quandary. I need a nice hat or two to keep the sun off of my head. Ever since a skin-cancer scare last year, I’ve done my best to keep my dome covered when out in the sun. I have quite a collection of baseball caps, though they seldom fit well. I have a straw hat that I wear on the farm. It’s rough-looking and worn but still does the job.
I have a nice cloth Tilly hat, purchased locally. It keeps the sun off of my head, face and shoulders and it’s my standard headwear when I’m out around others and care – at least a little – about how I look: boat rides, cookouts and other gatherings of friends.
But I’m currently minus hats to wear to and from work and at more formal events. I need dress hats for winter, spring and fall, too. Ultraviolet rays can cause damage year-round and I’ve gone uncovered too often this past winter.
I need nice hats I can wear with slacks and a dress shirt. I despise suits and ties but I dress business casual most of the time and walking around in LL Bean trousers with a baseball or fishing hat just won’t work. I could be picked up by the fashion police on any given day but even I sometimes know when things I wear simply don’t go together.
But where to find nice hats? Men’s stores used to sell all kinds of headwear but don’t as much these days. Dress hats aren’t in the demand they once were. Most people my age don’t wear dress hats. I know hats are offered on the shelves at men’s stores in Evansville and Louisville. But I’ve hesitated, worried I’ll return with something that doesn’t look right or worse, is just horribly silly.
The hats I see at online stores don’t seem to fit my style – if I have a style – and I hate to drop anywhere from $50 to $100 on the wrong thing.
I’m afraid of picking out a hat that will have me looking like a chubby gangster – a blond-haired version of Al Capone minus the cigar. He looked good in his hat. I don’t think I can pull off the same look walking around town. I lack his swagger.
Some hats, bowlers for example, are simply fuddy-duddy and wouldn’t look right on me without a pipe in my mouth or a jacket with leather elbow patches. Other hats look as they are surely worn only by men who carry umbrellas with them, no matter the weather, or who are ready to hunt foxes.
I don’t smoke or hunt foxes.
Other hats are so old-fashioned, they hearken back to the days when all men who wore hats carried canes. I’m far too young for a cane.
The cowboy hat thing won’t do, either. Though I do work on the farm often, I don’t have horses and I certainly don’t need the drama the gunslinger look would bring. I need a simple, classy hat, preferably something without feathers, tassels, fishing lures and shiny buckles.
And then there’s the hat-size thing to worry about. I have a big head, with my mighty brain and all. To buy a hat online, one has to know one’s head size. But most men my age don’t know their suit or hat size.
I’ve yet to find the courage to ask a friend or co-worker to encircle my noggin with a measuring tape. I don’t want to be reminded of my head or waist size. Both are too big.
However, if you have an old classy hat lying around you don’t need that you think might look OK on me, I’d consider a hand-me-down for now. Even if it won’t fit my fat head, it might give me a few ideas on what to buy.
I shared my hat fears with a friend not long ago who thought the issue so funny that he will no doubt collapse in fits of laughter no matter what I show up wearing. I’ll eventually order something online or journey to a men’s store, but I’ll worry a lot about the look. I’m not that self-conscious but if you see me in my new hat, please don’t laugh or point. My feelings bruise easily sometimes. If things get rough, I might have to try on the gangster look.
Now that I think of it, ol’ Al Capone looked pretty good in his hat, even in handcuffs.