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Farm Hats Make the Man

Are there really too many hats?!

001Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man”.  I wholeheartedly agree, however when it comes to working on the land, the farm hat is a close second to complete a jean-wearing ensemble for both men and women.

Today I’m feeling remorseful because I’ve amassed too many caps to fit in my closet and have to choose which ones will go to the thrift store. These caps just didn’t fit right or looked less than flattering on me.  Going down the road is a Denver Broncos fitted cap (forgot to check size) big enough for Frankenstein, a cap from my former workplace and several with funky crowns or misshapen brims.

I can now relate to ladies getting rid of too many shoes.  Can you really have too many hats or shoes?

I’ve had a love affair with baseball style caps since I was a small boy.  I inherited this from my grandfather and friends, as my father didn’t like wearing them and covering up his James Dean locks.  For years folks have been telling me that hats retard hair growth but I argue they protect the scalp from the elements and grease fittings.  Not sure who wins this argument.

Suffice it to say, philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis was right when he wrote, “It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a head, you must wear the right sort of hat.”  I tried wearing other styles of caps and even a cowboy hat but my head shape or ears just couldn’t cut the mustard in them.  To make matters worse, when I don’t wear a hat, people don’t even recognize me.  I suggest going with what works.

If you’re a cap connoisseur like me, you can name all your hall of fame hats. Those were the ones that fit awesome, made you look good and said something about your personality.  My first one was a black cap with an orange and white CASE tractor logo on it.  The rack had dual favorite corn seed caps from Dekalb and Golden Harvest.  I had a black fence contractor hat signed by artist, Gary Hawk and wore a powder blue and a white Hyline Hatchery cap until it disintegrated in the wash.

Are there really too many hats?!
Are there really too many hats?!

Nowadays my balding scalp is smitten with a white Upper Susquehanna Coalition hat, a classic John Deere Cazenovia Equipment cap and a retro Denver Broncos orange crush vintage cap.  When I hit the garden, I’ve also been trying a wide brim straw hat on for size in an attempt to combat the sun’s ultraviolet rays.  Even though I have my BHFs (Best hats forever), my nooks, racks and shelves are sufficiently filled with a cornucopia of colors, logos, teams and companies to go with any ensemble.

Back in the day a farmer could get all the free hats he wanted as it was the calling card for marketing and patronage of companies.  I’m not sure when the tightening budgets and switch to calendars and pens took over in lieu of a hat.  It’s kind of a running joke around here in farm country that when you buy a 25 thousand dollar piece of equipment  or a big seed order you don’t even get a hat thrown in anymore.  These are trying times I guess.

I’ve known many hat wearers and they all have a style that suits them.  Whether you’re donning an old school Dickie Green, railroad cap, boonie, drover hat, Amish straw hat, wool driving hat or the welder’s cap, it’s important to know you represent an Americana staple of fashion and earthiness.

Not all are in agreement with ball cap wearers.  I had a baseball cap “incident” when I was speaking in St. Louis, Missouri at a grazing conference.  Upon bellying up to the bar amongst big cowboy hats and even bigger belt buckles there was a conversation about what constitutes a ranch versus a farm.  I remember the western response vividly.  “You can tell it’s a farm because the owner wears a baseball cap which allows him to easily look inside his mailbox for the welfare check!”  Betcha hadn’t heard that one before?

A different kind of hat
A different kind of hat

My resolve was tested but it hasn’t hindered me in the least from hoarding hats.  The accumulation is slowing however as the price for the nice comfortable tops are exceeding 25 bucks.  The new style of straight lids doesn’t appeal to me either cause I ain’t no gangsta grass farmer.  Still, I wonder what my next sweat-beaded BHF will be.  Know this, as long there is cow manure, deer flies, brambles, rain and sun there will always be a reason to wear a fine hat.

Embrace the tradition and gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper’s attitude:  “I can wear a hat or take it off, but either way it’s a conversation piece.”

Previously published in Lee Publications

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Troy Bishopp
Troy Bishopp, aka “The Grass Whisperer” is a seasoned grazier and grasslands advocate who owns, manages and linger-grazes at Bishopp Family Farm in Deansboro, NY with his understanding wife, daughters, grandchildren and parents. Their certified organic custom grazing operation raise dairy heifers, grass-finished beef and backgrounds feeder cattle on 180 acres of owned and leased pastures. Troy also mentors farmers on holistic land management for the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition as their regional grazing specialist. This award-winning free-lance writer, essayist and photographer maintains a website presence at www.thegrasswhisperer.com


  1. Years ago after seeing a bumper sticker – NO FARMS NO FOOD- I had a friend who does stitching with a computer machine make me a hat with those words on it and over the years I have had them made and were sold in some local food coop’s and this year he made me one -NO FARMers NO FOOD- and I always have the letters done with bright colors. I always figured instead of advertising for some company I’d do it for what I love.

  2. Troy,
    Love the shirt! And the button in the last picture, too! This past winter, I ended up with five purple hats arriving here. Hats are pretty awesome! One of my favorites now is a Canadiens hat. Go, Habs!

  3. Troy, the blinders will keep people from seeing the whole off an operation so I hope it doesn’t catch on. Other than that it will be a conversation piece at the bar during your next workshop! Keep us cowboys wondering.

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