A Personal History Of Wearing Hats

In Hebrew School in my teens, with a mix of Jewish sects attending and teaching, one of my Orthodox teachers related to us that he wears a kippah “so my brains don’t fall out.” That day, I was aware for the first time that my brains were constantly falling out, and this continued for years afterwards. But not anymore. Now, as a 34-year-old, I wear a hat every day.

There are about 500 books about the history of hats, but there should be more. Wearing a hat has been an intricate part of human history since practically the dawn of creation. Or evolution. Teachers at that school certainly had different opinions.

It is supposed that the first hats were leaves tied atop people’s heads, secured with a plant material string. People felt there were benefits to the hat besides proto-fashion, like increased ability to think, increased balance, and increased coordination. A hat also fostered a sense of increased extroverted social behavior in ancient people.

It is impossible to write a history of human culture, behavior, and society without the mentioning of hats. In London, taxies are still made with tall roofs, so as to fit top hats. Top hats were also worn in the 19th century by American baseball umpires to distract the fans from staring too intently at their hands. White chef hats have been worn for centuries, sometimes with 100 pleats as a nod to 100 traditional preparations of eggs. The fedora was originally a women’s hat, then a men’s, and now both.

Hats have been worn by 98% of societies, and the remaining 2% only lasted for a few years before they migrated and absorbed a different culture, were taken over by another group, or they died out. Hats have been made out of 50 million different materials, and 30 trillion shapes.

Today, in the United States, it is somewhat rare to see somebody wearing a hat outside of a winter hat, not at a sports event, and not a religious person. Children often are not allowed to wear hats at school. Some people feel, even during winter, that wearing a hat is loser behavior. Some people wear a winter hat just to shovel snow.

As somebody who always runs cold, I have usually cherished the moment it becomes socially acceptable to wear a winter hat. I could really wear one by the end of September through April. Still, I put up a fight as a youngster when nobody else was wearing one. As a preteen, I was naturally concerned it would mess up my hair. By the time I was going to college in New York City, I was happy to wear one while waiting an hour at 1 a.m. for the one train. Plus, I was a hipster, so a beanie was very cool.

By my mid-20s, I didn’t care what was cool anymore. I just loved wearing hats. Soon I was working as a gardener at Wave Hill, and the organization gave us baseball caps with their logo, to wear during work hours. The staff almost couldn’t contain our excitement. It was like we were professional baseball players.

When I started freelance gardening, I definitely wore a baseball cap at all times. By then I knew that it keeps the sun out of your eyes. My whole hands-on gardening career, my employers and clients haven’t minded when I turn my baseball cap backwards on the clock. Sure it looks a little rebellious, but they could soon see the advantage to moving the brim out of the way when I was working that closely with plants.

When I started working in an office, my hat days were over, I thought. Nobody in their right mind would ever wear a hat to work in an office, unless they were a model modeling hats. Perhaps some old school guys would wear a fedora with a trenchcoat on the train, but that hat would come off upon stepping into the office. Out of respect.

My urge to wear a hat never ended. There was something about wearing one that was just so comfortable. Whenever I took it off, to, say, brush my hair or to put a sweatshirt on, as soon as I was ready for my hat, if I couldn’t find it in one second, I became desperate. Where’s my hat, where’s my hat, where’s my hat, I thought.

Now as a freelance writer, everybody expects me to be a Carrie Bradshaw-type, and as soon as I realized this, I immediately bought hats in a lot of different styles. As a young Carrie Bradshaw type who is associated in hipster culture, I felt beanies were socially acceptable from September to April. I have an orange New York beanie, which I wear as a seasonal color in October and November, and also to remind myself that New York will always be home. I have a yellow beanie to wear during the days and weeks when Forsythia is in bloom in spring.

Beyond hipster beanies, I also have formal hats to wear if I work in an office again someday. They are typically black. One is a beret, one is a slouchy beret with fake diamonds, I guess in case there is a formal office party. I have a pink hat to wear on Wednesdays to celebrate the movie Mean Girls. I have an authentic Israeli Army hat to feel close to my friends who serve. 

I have so many hats, in fact, that I realized recently that I could be considered a Conservadox Jew. I always identify as Secular first, because I respect religious Jews so much, and know that they would consider me to be such. I also identify as a Reform Jew, because I practice choice through knowledge. However, I don’t need to be religious to wear a hat. I just feel like they complete the human body. But next time I work at an office, I’m going to wear a hat and say it’s for religious purposes.