Day Thirty-six – Hats

Martin makes a big faux pas!

Martin makes a big faux pas!

I was born and raised in Georgia.  Growing up there, just about everyone wore baseball caps.  It makes sense – they are really useful.  

  • They are the best hair-style, bar none.  Why mess with your hair when you can just put a hat on and go?  I should point out that there were some boys that did not wear hats.  Their solution to the hair thing was to wear a permed mullet with lots of hair gel.  That’s fine; a baseball cap would have clashed with their parachute pants.  
  • They keep the sun out of your eyes.  The Georgia sun is bright and hot.  We spent a lot of time outside, so having a hat really helped.  The cool kids got by because they had sunglasses to match their perms.  Then again, we all got sunglasses after Risky Business and Top Gun made them cool.  Obviously, you negate this property of the baseball cap when you turn it sideways (nobody did this when I was a kid) or wear it backwards.  Wearing it backwards was acceptable in my crowd if you were a catcher, riding a bike (or doing anything in a high wind), or shooting.  Rappers were just starting to change this norm by the time I graduated high school.  An aside: there was some disagreement about the best way to fix the brim.  I was a pretty severe curve kind of guy.  Others liked to crease theirs in the middle.  A few put two creases in theirs, one for each side.  Only complete losers wore them straight off the rack.
  • They keep the sweat out of your eyes.  Remember that hot Georgia sun?  It came with some seriously high humidity.  As a result, we sweated a lot.  Hats helped.  This also helps explain why we ended up having to find a new hat every year or two: our old comfortable ones would either away on their own or our parents would toss them when we weren’t watching to keep the house from reeking.  
  • They allow for a less abusive version of the “slap” game.  We never called the game “slap”, but it was a sort of free-form boxing game where the goal was to slap the other guy in the face.  We had a lot of macho games like that.  They started with the pencil breaking game and escalated all the way up to the “let’s trade shoulder punches until one of us whimps out” game.  When you wore a hat, the goal of the slap game changed to knocking the hat off the other guys head.  You got extra points if you were able to grab it (which started the related game of “bet you can’t get your hat back”).  That game and the wind explains why we all had the bands on our hats tightened down so hard (who needs blood running to the brain, anyhow).
  • You can sport a logo.  Until we got into high school, most of us just wore the caps from our previous little league team or the one with the A on it (for the Atlanta Braves).  In high school, people started making statements with their hats.  Those were heady days, so the statements were pretty serious: John Deere, Red Man, and the Stars and Stripes competed with UGA, GT, and, for those looking to up their big city cred, LA, Oakland Raiders, or (gasp) NY.

There was an etiquette associated with wearing a hat.  We learned this etiquette from watching how men behaved and from gentle reminders from moms and grandma’s when we forgot.  Most of this was about learning when we really needed to take them off.  This included:

  • When going into a house, school, church, restaurant, etc.  If we’d somehow forgotten about this and it was time to eat, going within ten feet of the table with a hat was sure to get us a serious talking to (and it was never okay for us to put our hats on the table).
  • When meeting someone’s parents or any other adult (or girl, if you were aspiring to be a southern gentleman)
  • When the national anthem was being played and at other patriotic moments (as when Lee Greenwood’s “I’m proud to be an American” was being played out on the lawn at Stone Mountain during the laser light show).
  • A footnote to taking off the lid:  don’t worry about hat hair.  What you are showing is that good manners are more important than vanity.  That’s an important demonstration.

Now that I am a man, I still love to wear hats.  With my old-man mullet (almost gone on the top, long on the back), it’s pretty much a necessity (which is probably why the Duck Dynasty men always wear hats, skull caps, or bandanas).  From my usual black skull cap to a baseball cap to a fedora to my Romanian skufia, I’ve pretty much always got my head covered.  Speaking of etiquette, skull caps are okay to wear in the house, but NOT at meal time, bandannas are a gray area at the table (but I’ll defer to Phil on that one; if Miss Kay allows it, it must be okay!).  

I’d love to see nice hats make a comeback, but if that is going to happen, there is some serious learnin’ for folks to do.  Etiquette of all kinds has pretty much disappeared.  Even the most sacrosanct hat norms are being violated all the time.  Men aren’t setting an example and I guess moms/wives aren’t paying attention as I see grown men with their caps on during the national anthem and while they’re eating at the local diner.  It’s sad.  And if those bits of manners and chivalry have disappeared, what else is going on?  I doubt it’s good.  

Somebody needs to lose a serious game of slap hat.