Recently in the Vent in our editorial pages, angry callers turned their anger on local men who wear hats in restaurants and other public places. Some Venters want to enforce a weird reverse-Taliban thing, where men are required have nude skulls in public.
This issue hits close to home for me. In some ways, I am that guy: Sitting in a Denny’s with his cap pulled low. (If he orders extra bacon and figures the tip with his fingers, I actually am that guy.) To anyone who believes men wear hats indoors in a conscious effort to offend, I say: Please. We’re guys. As kids, we brought squashed insects to show-and-tell and learned how to shoot soda out of our noses. Most of us spent high school daring each other to eat disgusting things. If we wanted to offend you, we could do much better than hats.
The reasons are usually much more innocent, like:
We forgot to take them off. It happens. Legend has it Einstein once left the house without his pants. And I bet he didn’t notice until all his chairs felt cold. If we’re out before coffee, many guys are lucky to reach the booth without driving over the curb or taking a header off the plate glass. Hat removal is a style point we forget, unless our eggs start playing the national anthem.
We’re bald. Bald men lose a lot of heat out their big, hairless domes. Wearing a hat is like insulating your attic: It’s a cheap and easy way to conserve energy and keep yourself comfortable. But if it bothers you, point it out. Most of the bald guys I know will be happy to remove their caps — if they can then pick a hairless spot on your body to expose.
Our hair frightens children. Look at my byline photo. That’s the ’do God gave me, and it takes lots of hair care products and prayer to make it viewerfriendly. So imagine that hair, pillow-flattened and unshampooed, stooped over a Grand Slam breakfast at 7 in the morning. You bet I have a hat on! Want to see a man with a head full of roadkill? Come on over!
We’re heedless of traditional values. This is pretty much true. Men, indeed, were more hatconscious in days gone by. You can still see hats tipped, doffed, hung and handled reverently on "The Andy Griffith Show" on TV Land. But to those who link receding hat etiquette with the decline in Western civilization, I offer this deal: The moment we return to slowerpaced, single-income society, where a work week is 40 hours, houses cost $12,000 and a gallon of gas can be had for 29 cents, you’ll find me at the Denny’s, with my fedora on the hat rack and a fresh tube of Brylcreem standing by.