Copyright, Sean P. Durham, Berlin. “Self-Portrait with Stingy Hat”
Self-Portrait with Stingy Hat

A Hat that Makes You Feel Good

Wearing a hat is one of my things. A hat will lift your spirits, add style to who-ever you already are, and it’ll get you a few looks as you walk along the street.

“Personally I would never want to be a member of any group where you either have to wear a hat, or you can’t wear a hat.” ”
― George Carlin

I’ve been complimented on my hats while travelling the subway, on a bus, and entering a room. I am a little old school with my hats, so after entering the room I’ll remove my hat and lay it carefully on the table next to me. You don’t see hat racks about these days, so I put it on the table when there’s no food about.

I once sat down with some friends in a bar, I placed my hat on the seat next to me and a guy came over and sat on it. I didn’t say a word about it, he seemed like a nice person, so I didn’t want to embarrass him. Anyway, the woman in the hat shop told me that the hat can withstand being crushed by a steamroller and then bounce right back into shape — after the guy stood up, I looked at my hat. It was totally crumpled and crushed, I waited to see some sort of movement, hoping it was about to do the trick and bounce back into shape. It just stayed crumpled and squashed — it was a disappointing moment.

I picked it up and started to put it back into shape, still no bouncing, just a lot of small finger punches from me, digging fingers into the brim and gently forming it back into the turned-up brim style of a Stingy hat.

It made me think twice about trusting that woman in the hat shop, anymore.

If I leave the house without a hat I feel like I’ve forgotten something important. It’s the same feeling as leaving your wallet and keys behind, or forgetting to tie your shoelaces — or getting to the shop on the corner and realizing that you didn’t bring your mask with you.

I wear Stingy styled hats — a Trilby, or a Fedora, the brim turned up at the front. I love this style. The first time I saw a man wearing a hat in this style was in the film, “The French Connection”, Popeye Dolan, played by Gene Hackman, it kept me glued to the TV set throughout the film.

The first time I saw a woman wear a Stingy styled hat, I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She carried it well, and it added a little flair to her already good looks. I’m still not sure if I wanted to marry her — or just steal her hat.

I don’t buy that stuff about the hat being indestructible. And whatever the woman in the hat shop tells me I know she just wants me to come back and buy another one of her hats. She has stiff competition though, just along the street there’s another hat shop, it’s been around a lot longer than she has, and it sells Stetsons, she doesn’t sell Stetsons.

I bought my first two hats from the first shop — I’d never been inside the second shop, but one day, while strolling the long the street with not much else to do but think about hats, I sort of just slipped through the second hat shop door and started to look around. It took me half a minute to realize that I’d been visiting the wrong hat shop all along.

This shop has a few items in the front window, postcards on front of the door and a tray with knick-knacks for tourists to purchase. But the real emporium of goodies is in the back of the shop. A room full of hats — all of them top quality.

Stetsons, Oxford flat caps, Butcher’s Flat caps, Stingy’s formed from Trilbies and Fedoras, felt, weaved, paper, and pure wool fluffy looking things that I wouldn’t wear in a million years. Cowboy hats and Boaters. For the brave and clownish there was a selection of half-cylinder top hats with a traditional shine to them, a flat cap for playing golf, then hats for every sport. I just homed-in on the Stingies and Fedoras.

Recently, I saw a guy sitting outside a café wearing a top hat made of a heavy weave of flat straw. It looked like “Guns and Roses” gone all wrong. He had the hair for it, to make it look contemporary, but why the hell would anybody wear a bright yellow straw top-hat in the street. He got looks and smiles thrown at him from every passer-by.

While I was in the second hat shop, I started doing what I do, putting hats on and testing to see if among the rows of felt headwear one of them turns out to be the hat that fits me perfectly.

I tried several, then the shop owner came along and asked if he could help me. I told him what I was up to, and he pulled out a hat for me; it didn’t fit, well it did, but it looked like a bucket on my head. That means it’ll look great on someone else's head.

After a few tries, I picked up a hat and put it on. It was perfect the way it just slid into place and stopped just above my ears, I don’t want to look like one of the Three Stooges. I like the Popeye Dolan look.

The felt was finely made, and I could tell it was quality, the brim had a good spring to it. I bought it on the spot, and we’ve been happy ever since. So now I have six hats but can’t stop looking at possible additions to my small collection.

I have two baseball hats. I don’t wear them because a hat should be stylish — maybe it’s my Irish blood, but if you’re going to tip your hat to anybody, it’s better to do it in style.

Berlin Notes — Writing about the Creative Art of Living

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