The Hat

Lee wore the hat, deciding that it had rested on the dresser for long enough. It was now or never. Either the hat worked with this outfit or it would never work. He wore a powder blue shirt and grey suit pants with a chocolate brown leather belt to complement his brown leather shoes. Completing the look, he wrapped a soft woollen scarf around his neck, threw on his beige overcoat and the hat was the final touch. It all went together rather nicely, he was certain of it.

He made his way outside of the apartment block, feeling the crisp, cool breeze as he emerged on to the street below. Lee bristled with confidence in his well-dressed appearance. This was his style. He walked down to the bus stop and took a look at the real time information on display. Four minutes until the next bus. Lee looked around for a spot in which he could loiter, noticing some glances from others waiting there, perhaps in his direction. Was it him or was it the hat, Lee thought? A bit of a statement hat, he felt. A bit of a daring look and yet, he felt comfortable with it. This was his proper style. Sartorial elegance, that’s what the magazine had called wearing a hat. “A symbol of sartorial elegance.” Lee didn’t know what sartorial meant, but he recognised elegance and thought it all sounded alright.

After four minutes of real time or ten minutes by conventional time, the bus arrived. Lee waited patiently in the gathering breeze as everyone else scrambled to get aboard. The bus wasn’t full so there was no urgency on his part to find a seat. He queued up calmly, paid his fare and ascended to the upper deck, finding a nice window seat available about halfway along the near side of the bus. Lee enjoyed looking out at the passing scenery. A little glare of light on the glass showed him his reflection. Was it him? It was, the man underneath the hat. There was something about the look, a touch of class, an air of refinement, perhaps. A flash of concern crossed Lee’s mind. Should he be wearing the hat on the bus? Did manners not advise that he should remove the hat while in an interior space? He wasn’t sure and the longer he considered it, the longer the hat remained upon his head. By this stage, removing the hat might only draw attention to the fact that Lee had not yet removed the hat. He didn’t know any better. This was his first time wearing the hat out in public.

Lee began to feel unsure of himself, less confident of his hat-wearing credentials. How could he not know what to do with the hat in this situation? He noticed a pair of youths at the front of the bus, occasionally glancing over their shoulders in his direction. They were laughing and joking to each other. Was it about him, Lee wondered? Did these youths know he shouldn’t be wearing the hat when he didn’t know that himself? Or did they find his appearance ridiculous or even comical? Lee assured himself that the hat looked well. Of course it looked well. Sartorial. He would not have left the house otherwise. However, he could not deny feeling as though the hat was inviting judgement from strangers. Ignoring the furtive glances, Lee made his way to the lower deck as the bus approached his stop in the city centre.

As he stepped off the bus, the wind whipping about the tails of his overcoat, Lee convinced himself that the city was the true test of a hat. On the outskirts, a hat could be misunderstood but a cosmopolitan city is a fashion friendly sort of space. Lee paused a moment, re-examining his own thoughts. Was it fashion, Lee wondered? Had he really intended to be ‘fashionable’? He felt comfortable with ‘stylish’ but far less so with ‘fashionable’. “A symbol of sartorial elegance.” Something about that didn’t sit right with him now. It seemed a bit much. Really, he should have looked up what sartorial meant, Lee thought, cursing his own ignorance. He walked on down the street, tall buildings on both sides and amid the hustle and bustle of shoppers and strollers, in the periphery of his vision, Lee sensed that people’s eyes were looking his way. Fancy man about town wearing a hat. This was his look, after all. This was his style. Well, Lee thought so. Yet, as he walked along, and the eyes continued to look his way, he became less and less sure of it. Doubts poured in to his mind. What if he had gotten this wrong? Lee hesitated so long before wearing the hat at all, surely there was a reason. What if hats like this just weren’t for him? That was possible, certain hats just don’t suit certain head shapes. What if all the people looking at him were really laughing at him, judging him, critiquing him? It was all a bit too much to handle.

As he paused at a busy intersection at the end of the street, a sudden gust of wind blew across Lee and the other people waiting to cross. It whipped coats open, forced people to huddle together with their eyes down, and amid all that, it knocked the hat from Lee’s head, sweeping it away in another direction. Instinct made Lee move after it, but immediately reconsidered. Was wearing the hat a mistake? No one saw Lee lose the hat as everyone protected themselves from the wind. This could be his chance. As the lights changed, Lee simply turned on his heel and crossed the road, allowing the hat to go its own way. Another wonderful thing about the city is the anonymity it offers, Lee thought, smiling to himself as he walked onwards. He was free from the hat now. In truth, it wasn’t for him. Lee realised that now and would not make that mistake a second time.

In the other direction, some distance along, the hat halted in front of another crowd of pedestrians waiting to cross the road. Each person there looked at the hat for a moment. Some laughed, amused by its seemingly random arrival at their feet. Some looked about, expecting to see an embarrassed owner coming to claim it. Others regarded the hat, thinking it to be a nice dress piece. “What if I pick up the hat?” they pondered to themselves. They envisioned themselves or someone they know and love wearing the hat. As that image became clearer in their imaginations, the less enthralled they were by it. One by one, each person turned their face to look in the variety of directions where the hat could not be seen. After a moment, a breeze picked up the hat and moved it on again, not one person attempting to claim it.

Some say that the hat tumbles around to this day. Some say that it is carried by the wind, void of an owner, waiting for someone with the combination of poor taste and a high opinion of themselves to choose it. Some people say that, but I don’t. No. I think you have that hat. I think that you have that hat and that you are thinking of wearing it sometime in the near future. And do you know what I think about that?

You should wear the hat. I bet it’ll look great on you.