Tip Your Hat to Summer
The ultimate accessory for self expression, and for me, paying tribute to my dad
I wear a lot of hats. And by that I am not referring to the metaphor that means doing a lot of different tasks, juggling various roles in a busy life.
I mean I literally wear a lot of hats — fedoras, wide straw bonnets, baseball hats, broad-brimmed hats with flowers, caps — and I love them all. Whether I look like I am going to the Kentucky Derby or to a jazz concert is debatable, but I love the way a good hat makes me feel — finished, self-assured.
The good news for people like me is that in summer, hats are mostly a fashion statement, not just needed for warmth or to keep out the snow and cold. I have plenty of those kinds of hats for the Chicago-area fall, winter and spring. Though I admit many of the straw numbers are intended to keep out the sun, and a few of my rain hats demonstrate full functionality at keeping out the rain, function is not the first order of my hat affinity during the summertime.
The hats I don are pure choice, an election to add as a non-necessity, a gesture to the frivolous, the fashion attempt at being noteworthy, and a nod to an implied confidence. I may not be as confident as my headgear suggests, but I am trying to pull it off all the same.
I also love hats because my father did. A gem of a businessman, father, husband and more, he wore fedoras all year long, felt and straw, with ribbon and an occasional feather in the brim. Some were Cary Grant suave, others are more practical and sturdy. All of them remind me of the man who was both simple and complicated, humble and proud. He was stylish, yet down to earth and genuinely himself no matter what he wore.
Recently on a work trip, I wore one of my father’s Churchill fedoras, functional and stylish in dark gray tones. I got two compliments in the TSA line at O’Hare — from one man and one woman. Another compliment came from the flight attendant, a man, and a fourth came from a woman at the hotel when I checked in. So my appreciative audience was universal, not gender specific.
On a normal, non-hat-wearing day I would have to wear a sign around my neck that said, “Please compliment me,” to get as many affirmations.
I don’t own as many hats as I own pairs of impractical shoes, but on any occasion I deem hat-worthy, I will have perhaps a dozen that could be appropriate. I am not hiding under a hat, I am enhancing who I want to be.
I don’t wear hats because my hair is dirty — though that is a possibility at times. I don’t wear hats to get attention. I wear hats because I like how they make me feel, or at least how I want them to make me feel — bold, put-together and as confident as I hope to be.
Just as there are natural cat people — you know who I mean, people who adore their cats and talk about them at length — I assert there are natural hat people. I am one of the latter. When I try hats on in stores I walk around. OK, I vogue — tilting this way and that before deciding if I should add this millinery accent to my collection.
I have hats in fuchsia, yellow, blue, white, tan (many shades of tan), brown, black, red, gold, peach. Some I wear to weddings, and only take off to dance. I also wear them to parties outside. I wear them to the grocery store. This is not a new inclination for me; I have always been a fan and have the old Polaroids to prove it.
Years ago on a business trip to London when I was a feature writer for a newspaper, I interviewed the haute couture milliner, Philip Treacy, whose work has been on notable display at all the royal weddings.
His boutique was exquisite and so filled with scores of fascinating confections that I was breathless. I gathered my senses long enough to interview him. He spoke of hats the way an architect speaks of designing a museum. We were instant friends.
A hat can also represent you, as someone who dons a sense of mischief with a tipped fedora, or a rogue sense of style with a floral cap. Yes, your hat can represent utility, as it keeps out the sun on a summer day at the beach, but you can also pretend with that same straw hat that you are ready for a photo shoot on the French Riviera.
For me, wearing a hat is a reminder that I have more than a little of my late father’s style and sensibilities — I hope to be nearly as good a person as he was.
So this summer and all year long, I again tip my hat to my father, and thank him for making me a hat person — just like him.Edit Module