I was never really a hat person. Even in my youth, I donít ever recall wearing a hat of any kind, not even a baseball cap.
This was probably due to the fact that my father didnít wear hats, either, until later in his life when he took to wearing a straw Panama style hat when fishing. He made a silver hatband for it, with abalone and I think turquoise, an Indian manís hatband. Aggravates me sometimes, when people ask me what makes me an Indian and not just like "everybody else," and I canít explain to them in any way theyíll possibly understand that a thousand and one things do, including my fatherís silver hatbands with turquoise. Might not seem like much to most, but like the Navajo-made ring on my right hand, it speaks worlds to those who understand.
Before he took to a straw hat, if the sun started searing his bald crown, heíd just take a hankerchief and tie it over his head, giving him a decidedly odd rock Ďn roll look. He preferred Willie Nelson, actually.
I can probably count on one hand the number of times Iíve worn baseball caps. They aggravate me, I donít like the way they feel on my head. I started wearing fedoras a few years ago for a couple of reasons.
First, a wide-brimmed fedora protects the tips of your ears and nose from the sun in ways a baseball cap never dreamed of. Too many sportsman I know of had to have growths removed from the tips of their noses and ears, sometimes malignant.
Second, fedoras just look way cooler.
I donít like the ones you find at the Wally Worldís around here, theyíre kinda Panama style, too. I went on a search a few years ago and found my canvas-colored Country Gentleman hat at Dillardís. I wear it most of the time now, and I admit, I liked the name "Country Gentleman" a lot when I bought it. I had a straw hat rather like my dadís before that, but I retired it.
Most recently I bought a Bailey "Curtis," a brown felt fedora that is "packable." Now, thatís about the coolest, yet at the same time, most unsettling thing I ever experienced. You can take a packable hat like my Bailey and roll it up into a ball in your hand, like youíre wadding up a sheet of paper, and when you let it go, with just a little encouragement it resumes its original shape.
I wear the Bailey on more formal occasions, and the Country Gentleman fishing. It has taken a decidedly darker tone around the hatband from sweat, and has more than a couple of marks and scuffs, but itís still the best hat I own.
When I was in Belle Chasse a few months ago for the Saltwater Fly Rodders Expo there, Rick Pope, president of Temple Fork Outfitters fly rods in Dallas, gave me a TFO baseball cap, and I wore it most of the day out of respect and appreciation, because I have and am a big fan of TFOís rods. I also have a cap Harry Boyd, the maker of my bamboo rod, gave me, and I wear it now and then at a fly fishing get-together, but in general, I just donít wear baseball caps.
Itís how I was raised, and Iím not sure how it happened. I was in my 30s before I started wearing short pants, and in my 40s before I wore a pair of sandals, though you will never catch me in a pair of flip-flops or those other things that have the rope that goes between your big toe and the one next to it. That would make me crazy. Itíd be like walking around with a toe-wedgie all day.
Iím particular about short pants. They must be above the knee. Below the knee short pants on a short person like me looks like Bozo the Clown pants, or like Iím in first grade again. Must be above the knee. Not too tight, but not too baggy either, or I look like Iím wearing a single-occupant tent.
A friend of mine Iíve known for about 18 years saw me the other day in a pair of shorts, T-shirt and sandals and had to be airlifted to a hospital from the shock and trauma.
I donít know why itís that way. Iíve seen pics of me as a kid in shorts, but I donít remember wearing them. When I became a teenager I abandoned them for jeans exclusively. Donít know why, but my legs didnít see the sun for near on 20 years, and could have auditioned for the lead role in "Powder."
Blame it on the fishing. When I really got into fly fishing, it was decidedly easier to wade in shorts and waterproof sandals than in jeans and hiking boots. Fishing, therefore, has once again enlightened me and made me a more fashionable person.
When I was in Montana, we wore waders to fish the first three days, but on the fourth day we were just doing some interviews on Cutbank Creek and so I didnít wear them.
I brought my fly rod, and while I was waiting I was doing some trout fishing and decided Iíd just wet wade down the creek a ways.
Sheesh! I know now why they call it "coldwater" up there! Our Blackfeet host had waded wet the whole four days, but this little Looziana native wasnít adapted to water thatís the same temperature as our iced tea at lunch!
Of course, fashion is relative, and in Cajun country, land of camo pants, baseball caps and wrap-around sunglasses, I still stick out like a sore thumb no matter what I do, Bailey fedora and wading sandals included.