The hat I found is made of completely opaque felt and has a 4″ flat brim. 4 inches is a great size for sun hats. 3 inches, even 3 1/2″ doesn’t quite give the brim enough of an oblique angle, when pulled down against the sun, to allow for a relatively unobstructed field of view. On the other hand, when wearing a 5″ or even 6″ brim, you start to feel a little top-heavy and it becomes difficult to maneuver because the brim keeps catching on stuff you wouldn’t expect.
When I wear a hat that big, I constantly bump into things I shouldn’t, like the frames of open doors or telephone poles. Many of you may be able to get away with running face-first into unassuming objects: instead of crying out from pain, you quickly look around to determine if anyone saw you forget how to walk. Because you’re too embarrassed, you ignore the pain, and maybe the blood and broken bones, and keep on walking. You may decide it is better to tell people that you rescued a damsel in distress from a gang of villainous men with big ham-for-fists, and that, during the scuffle, from which only you could have emerged victorious, one of them managed to hit your face with his honey-glazed hock-knuckles. “You should have seen the other guy,” you say, trying to ignore your brain as it reminds you of the impression of your face in that poor, innocent, unassuming object that truly caused your so-called battle wound.
When I run into objects, though, there is no smooth recovery. I already have avid starers wondering, Why on earth is he wearing that stuff in this heat? Oops, ouch, pole. That looked like a neck strain.
So yeah, 6″ brims…definitely not my thing.
But I digress. Back to my flat, 4″ brimmed, opaque hat.
It’s kind of difficult to communicate the logical rigmarole of finding a hat that meets my requirements. For a long time, I settled for floppy green army hats, which are cheap but don’t really do the job because they aren’t wide enough. So I found a winter brimmed hat, which worked but made my head sweat too much, and still wasn’t wide enough. I eventually came across an old 3 1/2″ felt hat in a closeout store that looked like it belonged in a drama about 1920s crime bosses. It worked better than my other hats, but it was poorly made and within a few years it was too worn.
Using hats designed specifically for sun-protection is out of the question. Manufacturers tend to aim their products at the highest consumer base to provide for the most profit; the highest, and really only noticeable, demand for sun-protection is against UV rays specifically.
Hats designed to protect against UV light are often translucent and allow heat to escape from the top of your head usually through a netting of some sort. They are frequently made from breathable cotton or straw in order to reduce insulation value, neither of which block visible light adequately. Additionally, many UV protective hats protect only the neck or the face. I need opaque protection around my whole face. While I have seen hats that have flaps that wrap around the face, these don’t work because, in addition to being translucent, they are white and thus reflective of visible light.
Many people think of Stetson hats whenever they see a hat like the one I have. Stetson hats, however, are either designed with much too narrow of a brim or with the sides of the brim flipped up in that cowboy fashion that drives the southern girls wild. In both of these cases, a Stetson hat does not provide the protection that I need, despite its uncanny allurement.
I obtained my hat, and two others, from the still fashionable, but not as famous, River Junction Trading Co., which specializes in authentic old American western clothing and merchandise. Authenticity is key, because true American frontiersman wore hats as a necessity to protect from the blazing western desert sun. Although the fashionable ideal of the American cowboy hat is immortal, it has since evolved from its original purpose and lost some of its practicality.
Some people ask me if I’m Amish when they see my hat, even as I’m checking my cell phone while standing in line in my cookie-cutter tennis shoes at the grocery store. To them I say, good on the Amish for being practical.
To learn about my other articles of clothing, click on the related links below.