I used to dislike wearing hats. They didn’t suit me. Millinery shops would draw me to try on hats. I’d pick a style shown in magazines, the type of hat that should be worn by women I admired—the sort who laughed with abandon, ate life like it was a juicy apple, and never second guessed themselves. When I looked at my reflection in the mirror, the hat occupied the entire frame. I disappeared.
The first hat I ever wore was a baby bonnet secured with an under-the-chin bow. In spite of burgeoning liberation of the 1960s, mothers didn’t wheel hatless babies around town. What would people say?
As a kid, I wore a denim hat comprised of stitched-together panels and a soft brim. School kids pinned slogan-buttons to theirs, a kind of billboard attesting to their meteoric coolness. My hat remained unadorned. But that’s okay. Age taught me that it’s best not to flame out early in the first act. A slow rise to self-defined coolness is where it’s at.
I worked on farms during middle- and high-school summers. Baseball caps shielded sun from my eyes. To this day, my association with baseball caps is hard labour. They’re relegated to sweaty work outs or strenuous gardening days.
For many years, appearances trumped the practicality of wearing a hat. The 1980s hairstyles, cemented in place by tubs of Dippety-do gel and Aquanet hairspray, defied the restriction of a hat. Our hair was the hat of conformity and the hours spent sustaining that architectural coiffure was itself constraining. In the 1990s, I shorn my hair and dyed it blonde. I wanted to be Killer Instinct Sharon Stone.
At some murky point, heat won out. The summer sun burned hotter and there was all that talk about harmful UV’s and skin cancer. I admitted defeat and began my search for the one all-defining hat. I chose a quaint straw hat with a roll up brim. I’d grown my hair long, another sign of shifting closer to the real me. Now I loved hats. In fact, I could see myself in the mirror when I tried them on.
Hat love blossomed when my husband and I travelled. While in California, I bought a chic sun hat. My plaid wool hat returns me to Ireland on sweater-weather days. I adore my hippie hat and a fedora from North Carolina; the red Parisienne beret purchased in France; and the two-toned Floridian hat modelled after Audrey Hepburn’s in Tea for Two. I’ve since acquired hats with cheerful stripes and romantic flounced brim.
My hat collection documents not only where I’ve been, but where I was at emotionally and confidence-wise. I resisted hats early on because I felt unable to live up to their persona. It used to be that we looked for the identity box we wished to fit into. We’d all squish together into the same box by dressing in the right clothes, the corresponding hat. Today we build our own
box self-defined space in which to grow and thrive as our authentic selves. And when we expand and evolve beyond that space, we extend into new spaces. Now I think of hats as a self-expression. I’m in charge of the message. I can love and retain aspects of myself as easily as I can love an eclectic hat collection.
(PS Click here to join my bimonthly newsletter and receive your free excerpt of The Last Hoffman. You’ll be automatically entered in my next book giveaway! )
The Last Hoffman is a poignant family drama featuring a multilayered cast of tightly woven characters in a fractured northern community. It will restore your belief in second chances.“For all the novel features characters that are alone, it is a story driven by human connections (…) With vivid descriptions, natural dialogue and in-depth characterization, Tuinman compels us to look beyond the surface. The ending is triumphant.” –Historical Novel Society
“The environmental component is relevant to our times, the struggle to be heard over greed and ignorance and other people’s agendas is real. (…) This book would lend itself to be made into a movie.” ~ Canadian Author Association Reviewer