July 02, 2018

Horse 2433 - Ode To The Flat Cap

Summer seemed to last forever this year and Autumn arrived on the number 528 bus, changed buses and left again before we were aware that it had been and gone, but Winter arrived dead on time with almost clockwork precision. We haven't had the freezing frosts of previous winters because La Niña has come to play and so that means that we get driving rains which induce trench foot instead.
The truth is that I quite like the rain as it means that the people who work the hardest of all, farmers, get to grow things and dollars are effectively falling out of the sky. If there's one group of people whom society depends upon, without really knowing it, it's farmers.
From a more immediate and selfish standpoint though, the rain this year has made me appreciate something so mundane that unless you've experienced this yourself, you'll have no understanding of what I'm talking about at all. My appreciation goes to... flat caps.

As a chap who is currently on his fortieth tour around the middle sized star at the centre of our corner of the cosmos, the trappings of youth are starting to fade away; although given the choice, eating Coco-Pops and watching cartoons in the morning seems like a perfectly worthwhile endeavour  to me, except that television stations don't appear to put cartoons on in the morning anymore and I'm on the train at that time of morning anyway.
Among those things that I never had to think about, was the fact that I never needed spectacles before. I don't really need them to see long distances however, it would be so much of an annoyance to put them on and take them off, that I just go to work with them already on.
Ahah! I don't hear you say because text is a silent information medium and at any rate, I'm the one doing the writing; so not only is text silent, it's also not time traveling. Ahah, the delayed reaction of a sprung mechanism suddenly trips. My appreciation of flat caps, in a rainy environment, is due to the fact that when it rains, my cap acts as an awning for my head and my glasses don't get rained on.

One of my pet peeves, which I keep in my mental palace and feed with morsels of irascibility, is when you are pootling down the motorway at 70mph and a bug splats directly in your field of vision. The last thing that goes through the bug's mind is its thorax but the only thing that goes through my mind is the sudden excruciating pain that immediately follows because my eyes rapidly switch back and forth between focusing on the bug's carcass and the road ahead.
When I am wearing glasses and a spot of rain lands on the glass, this sensation is identical and I start wishing for it to go away. One drop of rain in my field of vision is immediately more annoying than anything else in the world at that moment. I bet you that I could be standing outside during a nuclear weapon strike and provided I had a drop of rain in front of my eyes, the impending vaporisation would seem less bothersome.
If you're wearing a flat cap though, although you are still getting rained upon, the little blessing of not having rain fall in your eyes is wonderful.

I have worn flat caps for a very long time. As a nerdy nerd in high school who eventually decided that not only was I not going to march to the beat of the same drum as everyone else, I was going to metaphorically plug in the electric e-bow and march to that instead, my flat cap was revolutionary when viewed against the backdrop of baseball caps. It served to be equally useful in uni when accompanying a football short or a big black scary cromby coat; largely in part because it was already the universal uniform of the north of England. The truth is now that I still like big black scary cromby coats and a flat cap just looks normal.
In the mid 1990s when I was in high school, there was a surge in popularity of things American; especially of basketball. This was still during the time that Michael Jordan was plying his trade; as such, the baseball cap style of hat came to rest upon many people's heads. The baseball cap kind of became a symbol of the United States, mostly because baseball has to be about the most American thing of all. The real estate on the front is the perfect place for a corporate logo, which also explains why the trucker hat and corporate identities like it. Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" red hat, is exactly in this same spirit, whatever you have to say about the politics of the man. Australia though, is kind of a cultural half way blend and then variations on both, although you do see baseball caps here, they're not as ubiquitous as in the United States.

I have seen other travelers on the train in recent years who, following the peak of hipsterism, still wear flat caps. I wore flat caps before it was cool, completely unironically when it was cool not to be cool, and still wear flat caps when they're not cool any more. The neat thing is that once you leave the crucible of educational institutions, the rest of the world is gloriously indifferent to what you wear.
So being free to wear whatever hat that I like, which in my case also includes a trilby, a pork pie and a bowler, my default head wear all comes down to the sheer practicality of flat caps. Mine is made of wool; so that means that it can get wet and it's perfectly fine. It can be folded up and stowed in my satchel if need be and because it's black, it hardly clashes with anything. That kind of simple versatility is why it became the unofficial uniform of the north of England. When you have a country as rainy as England, you need something that is going to excel under those conditions.
In an Australian winter, where it rains a lot, where the mercury sometimes dips into minus degrees Celsius, and where frosts and fogs hang around until well into the morning, I like to keep my brain from freezing. On cold mornings where all of my extremities are screaming because of cold, at least I can keep the heat in my noggin. I like not having droplets if my field of vision and so I will sing the song of the north of England, even though I am in the south and in one of the bits of dirt that she stuck a flag in. I am not prepared to go out and get a pigeon loft or any whippets though.

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