Like your nan, I commented on the Instagram post with tentative politeness. ‘Is the hat on the website yet?’, scared that a young hype lord would see my aged attempt to join in and troll me in the comments. It was 15 hours since The Northern Fells – a hallowed outdoor and general Gorpcore store – had posted the come-get-me picture of the Adsum boonie hat on its feed, so surely it would still be on sale. I clicked through, but couldn’t find the hat, hence my mewling in the comments. “It was sold out I’m afraid” came the reply. The picture was posted at 9pm on Sunday night and by midday the next day they were all gone. A plain black sun hat with a neck strap and a small white logo. Gone.
It was fine. I told myself I didn’t even want it, anyway. I’m not a fisherman or a Yosemite grey-beard or one of those lads at day festivals that dance with opioid menace.
But I did want it. After weeks of ‘rona restraint, I wanted to spend money on something that wasn’t strictly needed, and I wanted to wear something that I probably shouldn’t. I wanted to see the look on my girlfriend’s face as she wondered if her partner is, in fact, a berk. I wanted to be at odds with my peers, for fun, which is kind of what fashion is all about. (Also, it’s been the hottest spring on record and a boonie hat is proper good at keeping the sun off my delicate facial skin. Maybe I should have just said that?)
True to my Gorpcore ways, I was hell bent on a boonie, but it could have been one of any of the silly hats that are hip right now. Floppy straw numbers at Fendi and Louis Vuitton; hi-ho-bro Stetsons by Nick Fouquet or Saint Laurent; squat berets straight off the bonce of a Wes Anderson hitman at Prada and Marni; the houndstooth bucket hats at Gucci, which definitely wander into trilby territory.
Even baseball caps haven’t been spared. In its S/S’20 collection, Dior elevated one by lopping the back half of it clean off, and P Johnson, a stylistically un-boisterous suit maker has landed itself in the centre of a hype frenzy after creating THE hat of the summer.
The P Johnson hat – which the brand calls a ‘dad’ hat; a plain baseball cap with ‘P. Johnson’ stitched in sans-serif the front – is impossible to buy. They sell out almost as soon as they drop, which is the perfect evidence for the theory I’m about to offer. Ready? Brace yourself.
The hat is the ultimate piece of self-expressive clothing.
There, I said it. Take your jaw off the floor, bub.
People lose their shit over trainers and sell vital organs for handbags and remortgage houses for the chance to buy certain watches, but all those things offer is membership to an elite, but relatively well-attended club. The right hat can create a cult of one, and that’s much cooler. Two guys walk down the street, one in a pair of Triple Black Yeezys, one in a leopard print Stetson. Which one do you think more assured in his own sense of style?
The trouble is, much as I support that man’s right to wear the Stetson (and the other lad’s right to the Yeezys), ‘big cat cowboy’ is a long way for the hatless to wander, especially in a post-Joe Exotic world. And interested but (ultimately, custardly) dudes like me probably want to dip their toe (head) in the kooky water (hat) first before going all-in. I’d bet that’s why P Johnson’s hat is so damn popular: it has character and rarity, but no one is going to ask you if you need help when you wear it.
So, I’m back to the boonie conundrum. I couldn’t find one I liked, or could justify spending £250 on – I'm looking at you, tie-dye Explorer hat from Loewe's new Paula's Ibiza collection. I even scoured the internet for the multicoloured number I saw in the Columbia store on Cat Street in Tokyo last year, but quickly realised that, like everything good in this world, it was only available in Japan. So I ended up buying a dusty green bucket hat from Hikerdelic, which I'm wearing as I write this. The brand pitches itself as the place where the park meets the precinct; where the worlds of rambling and raving coalesce. I like house music and UK national parks, so that chimed with me. A Gucci gardener’s visor, it ain’t. It’s not going to set me aside as a style icon, a maven, a lone wolf or a monetarily healthy aesthete, but it will keep the bastard sun out of my eyes.
This, I hope, is but the start of my odyssey into the hat realm. One pal recently said that he didn’t think Glastonbury will be back until 2022, which is a sobering thought. But it gives me a goal. Like an athlete looking to peak at the Olympics, in two years’ time, I intend to be in the Pyramid Stage crowd, addled, sun-kissed and straining under the weight of a hat so elaborate, magnificent and cutting edge that Emily Eavis can’t help but name the farm's coolest cow in my honour.
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