In the space of less than a week, I have had two conversations with strangers and one with a friend about my hat.
I will readily admit that coolness and I are not the greatest of friends, so for me to assert that my hat is cool, is a futile exercise. Nevertheless, people will like what they like and I make no apologies for liking hats. I don't mean baseball caps either, for while they are of an entirely different tradition and almost exclusively used for the express purpose of branding, I think that they qualify as being a different thing. Having said that, the ubiquitous New York Yankees hat is quite rightly and unequivocally an icon in its own right, and has traveled far broader and wider than just to the heads of New York Yankees fans. I don't think it would be difficult to find someone wearing a Yankees hat on the other side of the world from the Big Apple and who doesn't even remotely like baseball.
I digress though.
The hat that I most often wear is a black cheesecutter, which I bought from a shop called the Headwear Depot on D Street in San Diego. There's nothing inherently special or remarkable about the hat at all and that is probably its greatest strength. Precisely because it has no obvious identity, I've worn it with suit jackets, my big black scary Crombie coat, football shirts, button down shirts &c. and it doesn't look out of place with anything.
It is of itself, completely neutral but being something which is uncommon, distinctive.
I like that. It might not be cool but I think that it is classy and if not classy, then timeless.
The thing about the cheesecutter as opposed to its cousin the flat cap, is that for some reason the cheesecutter is classless while the flat cap is very much working class. The flat cap is perhaps most associated with the working classes across the northern part of England and in particular the mining communities of Lancashire and Yorkshire. The cheesecutter on the other hand, can be found in London, New York, Chicago, Melbourne, Tokyo... practically any major urban centre in the world. Trendy versions are made by Kangol, Burberry, UniQlo, The Gap, Zara, as well as in cheap variety stores. You could pay $5 for a cheap cheesecutter and while you're not going to have a name brand under the brim, nobody really cares or knows anyway. The cheesecutter is possibly the most democratic of hats without even trying. Mine though, has no trendy branding on the outside of it and as such, it retains that classless quality.
Especially in the winter, I have seen cheesecutters on quite a number of people. It along with the beanie, could very well be the unofficial uniform of commuters who are standing in the cold, while their blood retreats from their extremities. Admittedly there are more people who wear hoodies but almost none of those people ever put the hood up, for fear of looking like a petty thief or other nefarious knave. Also, due to the kind of flat nature of the top of the cheesecutter, it is easy to wear a set of big can headphones over the top.
The cheesecutter isn't the only hat isn't the only hat that I have. It isn't the cheapest and it isn't the most expensive hat that I have either. It is the one that I will wear most often though.
One of the hats that I found in a clearance bin at a surf shop, is a kind of grey trilby. I have no idea of what kind of hat it was supposed to be and it had been marked down quite a lot because apparently you can't sell trilbys to surfer and skaters types. It did require me turning down the brim at the front but I quite like it because it sits at a jaunty angle and has kind of an Inspector Gadget sort of look to it. This grey trilby is in that gritty tradition of Dick Tracy, Lt Tragg and Phillip Marlowe. It is the kind of hat that one would wear if they were investigating a hideous crime and encountered a dead body.
To that end, I was wearing it while walking down to the bank one day and out of nowhere an old lady asked me if I was a detective. That set of events says several things all at once, including that old people reach a point where they simply don't care what they say anymore, that I work in a suburb where the average age of the population means that they can probably still remember gold rush, and that both of us are probably the sorts of people who expect that on television, a murder in a small village will be solved by a TV detective in 90 minutes or less.
I also happen to own a black bowler hat. The bowler hat is very much aware of its place in the whole class structure. It is a hat worn by someone working in an office but not necessarily by someone who wants to be seen to be seen. People like lawyers and industrialists, managers and socialites, get to wear top hats or in the case of Isambard Kingdom Brunel a stovepipe hat. I on the other hand, know that I am an operative and a member of the grand class of technocrats and bean counters. I know that a top hat would be mostly too lofty for me despite the fact that I would wear one if given the chance.
Quite frankly I have long suspected that I was caught in a hideous rip in space and time and ended up being born about 80 years too late in history. When I look at Poirot, I see the 1930s with the telephone and radio but not television or the internet, and tweed, bakelite, art deco and jazz, to be kind of a good idea. Poirot can wear a bowler hat but for him that is a step downwards; whereas for me, it is a step made with all exactitude.
I have bucket hats, various baseball caps, and a pork pie hat which is a shade too small for my head and sits up there like a chicken on top of a rockmelon and yet despite being spoiled for choice, I will naturally gravitate towards a hat which is brandless, classless, and clever.
Broadly speaking, I think that too many people are wearing not enough hats and that not enough people are wearing too many hats. I look at old photographs of railway stations, sporting fixtures, public events &c. and see a sea of hats which once were commonplace an now are not. If I am the last man wearing a hat in a hatless future, then so be it. It will be a cheesecutter, too.