Janet (j4) wrote,

Pretty hat machine

So people want me to write about hats... a somewhat surprising outcome for the poll, but never let it be said that I ignore my readers' wishes.

See, all I was actually going to say was that I was trying to find a hat for addedentry, and it proved nearly impossible to find the style he wants (something like this) for under 20 quid. It's easy to buy a cheap beanie, or a hat with big earflaps, or any number of ridiculous pointy/floppy/silly hats with bells and quite probably even whistles; but try to buy a sensible-shaped hat in a warm fleecy fabric for a price that won't leave you feeling gutted when you inevitably leave the damn thing on a train, and straight away the fashionable world of accessories turns its boho back on you.

However, I really enjoy the searching process, whatever I'm trying to buy; I enjoy updating my mental matrix of shops and products and prices, and trying to get the best deal. For a while it looked as though Littlewoods were in the lead with a rather good hat/scarf/gloves deal, but there's no Littlewoods in Cambridge (a fact which I often find myself regretting, particularly since the unfortunate demises of C&A and Woolworths) so the cost of postage would have to be factored in. I tried all the sensible shops (Millets, M&S, Next, etc.) and some of the silly ones (Accessorize, New Look, Cult, the market's zany hat stall) but there was simply nothing suitable. Part of the problem seemed to be that the style of hat I was looking for, being slightly elegant, counted as a "women's" style, hence was only available in cream/pink/blue/leopard-print/sequins; whereas men's hats (available in sensible colours like black and grey) were only available in ugly, lumpen styles.

Just as I was beginning to think I'd exhausted Cambridge's potential hat-merchants, I discovered a shop I hadn't realised existed: a discount camping/outdoors shop (apparently originally the YHA shop) on Bridge Street, tucked away in a basement between shops that I must have walked past a hundred times. There I found a hat/scarf/gloves set similar to the Littlewoods one but for only five pounds; not exactly the right shape of hat, but close, and at that price it was worth buying as a temporary fix for the increasingly pressing cold-head situation that was manifesting itself near me. (I mean, I know he wants to be a cool blond, but there are limits.)

All this hat-hunting got me thinking about my own headgear. I've never really thought of myself as a hat person, to be honest. Hats don't often suit me, though I've worn them on and off all my life: the mobcaps that my mum made for me when I was a baby; the "Watch out, watch out, there's a Humphrey about" sunhat I had as a toddler (the ultimate irony for a child with a dairy allergy!); the grey felt bowler with orange ribbon which was part of my winter uniform at Greenbank; the inevitable baseball caps (briefly useful for hiding an ill-advised crew-cut, though to be honest our family's matching shellsuits made any style-rescue attempt futile) in the 1980s; then the Colorado Rockies baseball cap that my dad brought back from the States for me when I was a teenager (he chose that one because it was black and purple, and I'd made it clear that those were the Right Colours for things, because those were Goth colours); the floppy velvet hat I wore as I became even more of a goth, all velvet skirts and black nailvarnish and misery (both affected and real); the patchwork hat that I bought from Grass Roots (Loughborough's head-shop!) in the endless summer when I'd discovered the Levellers, and decided I wanted to run away with the gipsies, or buy a houseboat and call it "Nowhere Fast"; the black cap that I wore with all my hair tucked under it so I'd look like I had short hair and, ergo, like a proper lesbian, so girls would know I was interested -- and I wore that hat so much that it became greasy, and then the plastic inside the peak broke when I put it in the washing machine so it went all lumpy, but I still wore it, off-and-on, for years after that; the giant red-and-black striped foam top-hat which I bought at Blackpool on my first holiday with a boyfriend (having given up on the girls as a lost cause), which I wore with my white diamante-studded, midriff-exposing t-shirt and my tight black jeans -- and I looked like a townie girl on a hen night but I didn't care; much later, the black fedora I bought at Affleck's palace after reading too much Raymond Chandler, which (to come full circle) addedentry may remember me wearing at a certain Livejournalist's party... There are probably others. After a while you start to forget their names.

When I wear a hat, particularly the fedora, I'm very conscious of my hattedness, for want of a better word. The state of being A Person Who Is Wearing A Hat is foregrounded in my self-image, and my actions and mannerisms reflect that. I don't mean the obvious clichéd things like tipping one's hat to people (which I do occasionally, even though it looks ridiculous) or taking it\
off when going into church (which I did the other week, affected though it may be, after a minor crisis of etiquette: I suspect women should theoretically keep their heads covered, but I was wearing trousers and a man's hat, so I suited the action to the clothes) or, I suppose, throwing it into the air in glee (does anybody really do that?). No, I mean more subtle things like the way I walk, the way I incline my head. It's the way I see myself in my mind, the way I see myself (and, when hatted, I often look) reflected in shop windows; the shadow I cast, a shadow with its head clearly defined and delimited.

So much for the serious hats. But then there are festival hats, all the silly hats I've bought at Glastonbury and the Folk Festival but never actually worn. They're the sartorial equivalent of holiday flings: just passing glimpses of a person I might have wanted to be while the sun was shining and the music was playing. But at last year's Glastonbury, for the first time, I didn't buy a hat; perhaps for once I already knew who I wanted to be when I got there. We took umbrella-hats with us, and at one point in the middle of the epic 6-hour downpour I ventured out in pyjamas, sandals, cagoul and umbrella-hat, and the smiles and giggles I drew from the drenched masses would have made the hat a worthwhile purchase even if it hadn't actually turned out to be the handiest handsfree headcover I've ever owned. "Your hat is safe," said one guy who passed me. I think that was a compliment. Maybe I am a hat person after all.
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