Mark 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.
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?
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