Well fitted: My love affair with hats

In fourth grade, my mom would drive me to the nearby Olympia Sports store every other weekend.

I wasn’t going there for athletic reasons because even when I was athletic, I was a bench-rider – nothing more or less.

I solely shopped the aisles to rock the latest in fitted fashion.

The store was my one stop shop for hats, and they came at a bargain – $5 each. Hats ranged from throwback NBA fitteds to caps donning classic MLB logos.

I was in heaven and sporting my hats in school became a hobby; it seemed as if a new hat every day could boost my confidence. I was a nerd – straight A’s and all – but my hobby displayed me as a chic individual among my peers.

I have to give my mom props, for without the countless miles allotted on her Saab I wouldn’t have been able to flex in school. Once, I came home to my room decked out in nails, which she had put in place for me to hang my collection of hats.

Over the years I’ve been trying to chalk up my obsessive, fashion-savvy hobby to a moment in my life. Every time, I can only think of one story that rings true – Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.

This bookshelf classic was one my parents could act out for me when I was younger, but it was also inspiring. The mustached protagonist in the book is a hat salesman, selling his product for 50 cents a pop.

The salesman, however, is a tired act – literally. He falls asleep under a tree and gets his hats stolen by monkeys, getting cross with the monkeys as the story comes to a close.

The monkeys imitate the man and when the man – wearing one last cap – throws his hat down in disgust, and the monkeys throw the stolen hats back to the man.

The story paints the picture of not only a man who is infatuated with his noggin-coverings but also a bunch of jealous onlookers who try to jack the man’s style.

This was my life with hats.

My peers would swipe the hat off my head every day just to balance it on their own heads à la T.I. When your hats are causing kids to imitate the “Rubber Band Man,” you know your $5 investments really paid off.

Romantically, my hat and I just couldn’t be separated –even in the gustiest of windstorms, things stayed put on my head. Walking into class bumping Mos Def’s The Ecstatic in middle school, rocking a Buffalo Braves fitted – I simply couldn’t be stopped.

Regardless, my hobby sort of faded by high school – cue the Tyga-spawned trend of snapbacks. The obnoxiously large text & shape on these trash creations I purchased now feels, in retrospect, like the worst investment of my life.

It wasn’t until I got to UB my freshman year that I discovered my true calling – I could finally wear a hat in the classroom.

Before my first day that August, I spent the summer searching Ebay and Etsy for the best selections. I looked for any purchase using the keywords “vintage” and “throwback” to filter out the exact aesthetic I was looking to relay.

One day, I found my favorite hat of all time on Etsy for $15 - my 1997 Miami Heat Atlantic Division Champions hat. Its old school appeal emitted a vibe that would be best rocked backwards by K-Ci in Jodeci’s “Come & Talk to Me” video.

I started allotting more caps to my collection, so much so that I found myself in the shoes of the Caps for Sale protagonist with tons of hats on hand. Now, with every new city I visit, I have to stop in the gift shop and get a hat that represents that region.

People ask me all the time, “Wow, that’s a sweet hat, where’d you get it?” Unfortunately for them, a magician never reveals his secrets, so most answers are vague or intentionally misguiding.

Humbly speaking, my coolness with hats is unmatched as far as what I’ve encountered over the years. No embroidered dad hats have even come close to anything I’ve scoured the deep web for.

This isn’t to say no one can get to a level of being a hat aficionado or being in a hat cult. It’s possible. It just takes years and years of practice. I want all my peers to be number one in the hat game.

No matter what your point of inspiration is – Ne-Yo’s signature fedora or JAY Z’s Yankees cap – find it.

You could have the red and black lumberjack shirt but in order to make your outfit worthwhile, you need the hat to match it.

Benjamin Blanchet is the Asst. Arts Editor and can be reached at benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com.


Benjamin Blanchet is the senior engagement editor for The Spectrum. His words have been seen in The Buffalo News (Gusto) and The Sun newspapers of Western New York. Loves cryptoquip and double-doubles.