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  • Writer's picturebobbury

On buying a hat

Belatedly paying heed to the dire warnings implicit in the Yorkshire anthem "On Ilkley Moor baht'at", I decided to buy a flat cap. The first gentleman's outfitter I went to was, fittingly (or not, as it turned out), in Ilkley. He sold me a Genuine Local Cap, pointing out the pictures of Ilkley adorning the lining. It seemed to fit well in the shop, but when I got home it felt as if it was sitting insecurely on the top of my head, and would be lost in the first stiff breeze.

Instead of accepting that flat caps were perhaps not for me, I doubled down by visiting another hat shop in another Yorkshire market town (Northallerton). Here an elderly gentleman in immaculate country tweeds showed me an enormous range of different caps in every size known to man, and I tried most of them on. I have a very prominent occiput (Google it if you don't know), which makes it difficult to get a hat that fits, but having taken up so much of his time, I felt obliged to buy one.

And actually, it's OK, and I've just started wearing it when I walk the dog. I watch passers-by very closely for signs of mirth, and one has fallen about laughing at me yet; it also seems fairly secure. But it makes me look so old. In fact, when I caught sight of myself in a car window I looked just like my dad in the weeks leading up to his death. He was an inveterate cap wearer, partly because everyone wore a cap when he was growing up, but perhaps he was also influenced by the fact that he went bald in his twenties and needed protection from the elements. I still have a reasonably thick thatch of white hair, but even so, I'm impressed by how much warmer my head feels when wearing the cap (a statement of the bleedin' obvious if ever there was one).

It occurs to me that there are two populations of cap wearers. There are the old codgers like me, and then there are the young professional chaps who don their moleskins at the weekend to take the spaniel out in the Range Rover for a spot of shooting. The latter look so much more dashing in their Barbour caps – perhaps if I'd started younger I'd be able to carry it off with more aplomb now. Still, I'll persist. In fact I'll have no choice, because the wife won't be slow to point out that I've bought not one but two expensive hats, if I'm not wearing either of them.

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