Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hat's Please | The Boater


This weekend Jeremy and I visited our local historic hat shop, Byrnie Utz Hats, with the specific intention of us each leaving with a new straw boater, something I have wanted for my summer wardrobe for quite some time. I have loved this style of hat my entire life, but as I have ventured further into a life about clothing, I have become leery of the fact that this hat seems to have become a novelty...something only reserved for playful dress up or costume or barbershop quartets. For the better part of nearly 4 decades, the boater was the primary warm weather hat for men. Every region of the United States had a Straw Hat Day (sometime in mid-May for most), which everyone understood to be the day where men simultaneously switched from wearing their felt winter hats to their light weight summer replacements. The season would then end with the hat being thrown away, and a new one being purchased the following spring. Boaters were affordable, fashionable, and most men wore one.

I get confused when I think about how only one particular style of hat can make the move from a fashion "default" setting of sorts to comic novelty in a way that no other hat seems to have done. Given, we don't wear hats like we used to. And for that matter, we don't value clothing like we used to. As a result, when we think of wearing a garment (like hats) which hold such heavy connotations from the past, they call forth the very iconic images and characters that make the styles so memorable in the first place.

But boaters are still different, it seems. I can't fully wrap my brain around it and maybe you can help.

I'm proud of mine, nonetheless, and am happy to wear it around town. Making it even more special, the folks at Byrnie's told me that the true boater is from Italy, and only one Italian company still makes the real deal. Sadly, that one company has one machine to make the one original boater...and that machine is now broken and in need of repair. I can only hope they have the one piece of paper with the one phone number of the one 96 year old repair man who knows where to find the one tool on his workbench to repair the one odd part on the one machine so we can keep making these spectacular hats for years to come.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

you bring to light an interesting inquiry as to why clothing pieces become "novelty." why do they? i don't know. i do think, though, this is the way of the beast.

slap on some polyester bell bottoms and a leather fringe jacket and you'll be pegged a costume hippie (maybe post-social movement). and yet, these styles are reappearing today in a scary, disorganized mash-up of era-specific styles.

you, more than anyone else, know how fashion and art constantly reference themselves. are we in a time of fashion identity crisis? probably, and therefore recycling iconic pieces is only natural. i thing "novelty" is just another way of saying "out of style". and your pursuits at reclaiming the boater in a sincere way only mean you are breathing into it a new sensibility; freshness.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Christopher McCarter said...

i say fight the good fight and wear what feels good.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Charles Davenport said...

I second your admiration for byrnie Utz, but you might also want to visit the Conley hat shop, a little known custom hattier in Madrona, who fits classic felt hats precisely to each wearer. Included in the list of things I'm saving for (Like one of your shirts) I am looking foreward to a customized bowler.

http://www.halcyon.com/hatter/index.html

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

quite interesting article. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did any one hear that some chinese hacker had hacked twitter yesterday again.

10:18 AM  
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