A Hat’s A Hat And That’s That


One of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make recently has had nothing to do with how my beds will look or what sort of mulch to use or which plants to purchase. No, my decision was much more complicated and personal than those trivial gardening matters.

I needed a hat.

I’ve known about the need for a hat ever since arriving in Florida. The nickname itself, the Sunshine State, practically invites the need for some personal shade. My neighbors have nagged me about it, and so has Joe.

Even the crews repaving local roads gave me some not-so-subtle reminders. As they worked with boiling  tar in the heat of summer, they were also very much well-protected from the sub-tropical sun: long sleeve shirts, long pants, facial protection that looked better suited to protect one from winter winds than daily sun, and, naturally, hats.

I’ve never gardened in a hat. I always felt it got in the way of whatever I needed to do — but the chant that I needed to wear one if I wanted to garden in zone 10 became so insistent that I jokingly contemplated wearing one of Audrey Hepburn’s hand-me-downs from My Fair Lady.

My Fair Lady 2

Now, that’s a hat!

Nevertheless, a good hat for gardening is a logical, practical necessity. Recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control say that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and rates of newly diagnosed cases continue to increase on both a national and global level, despite efforts to raise awareness.

The biggest culprit in all this skin cancer talk is UV exposure.


While health agencies around the world have made a sound argument for sun protection, I’m unable to shake the but-I-don’t-want-to-wear-a-hat tantrum — mostly because I don’t think my head is built for a hat.

I’m not sure if it’s head shape or hat style, but the two seem to go hand-in-hand.  Some heads make any hat look cool, and some hats make any head look cooler.  Consider the phenomenally talented Pharrell for a moment.  If we can consider his now famous hat as a bell curve, he sits alone at the top of the hat, a place where head and hat come together in a way that has the rest of us tipping our hats to him.

Courtesy of www.time.com.

Courtesy of http://www.time.com.

I, on the other hand, happen to be in a part of the curve where head and hat don’t meet, regardless of my best efforts.

Actually, I own one baseball cap. I spotted it a few years ago in a catalog and I liked it immediately because it was green and it said “Head Gardener” on the front. I had visions of working around the yard each day, proud of all of the smudges and stains that would accumulate on it over the years — the sort of hat that could never be thrown away because of our history together.

But I’ve never worn it — because me wearing a baseball cap is as American as chicken tikka masala. See what I mean? It just doesn’t fit.  Besides, I don’t even have a head for baseball much less for a baseball cap.  I guess I’m just a Head Gardener who doesn’t want to get his hat dirty — and for years, my smudgeless hat has resided in my closet.

Still, I’m not a hat hater.

I wish fedoras could be used for gardening.  I’m always drawn to the plaid ones.  They’re suave and smooth and oh so cool.  Each time Joe and I go shopping for gardening headgear, I insist on placing a fedora on my head.  No matter which way I place it, though — close to my eyes or off to the side — it cannot do what a proper gardening hat must do, which is provide enough shade to protect my face, ears, and nape.  The fedora, for all its style, is built for a night on the town rather than a day in the garden.

My hat hunt has only grown more desperate.  In one shopping trip, I tried on hats that made me look like a cowboy, a member of the French Foreign Legion, a Vietnamese rice farmer, and Gilligan.  At one point, I wasn’t sure if I was hat shopping or auditioning for The Village People.

After exhausting rack after rack of styles and listening to my red carpet critiques, Joe was convinced that I was more of a head case than a hatless one.  And I was this close to agreeing with him.

I knew, though, that somewhere out there was my hat. After all, Joe’s grandmother used to say there was an ass for every chair — surely, then, there must be a hat for every head. Right?

On a whim, Joe and I visited a local hardware store that happened to have a hat rack. I again began the process of trying each style on for size — try one and walk to the mirror, try another and walk to the mirror, try one . . .

Garden Hat

And this one didn’t look so bad. It fit all the criteria — wide-brimmed to shade my face, neck, and ears, made of straw so my head could breathe, and more Pharrell than Eliza Doolittle.

Now, I garden with my hat. While it keeps my face well shaded and somewhat cooler, the top of my head bakes beneath the woven straw, despite the open weave. When considering the health consequences, though, a little bit of sweat isn’t so bad.

In fact, when I’m wearing my hat I think I can almost hear Professor Higgins excitedly shouting, “He’s got it! By George, I think he’s got it!”

And that makes me, in the words of Pharrell, quite happy.

17 thoughts on “A Hat’s A Hat And That’s That

  1. YOU have been in FL too long to not have a hat!!!!! Glad you got one! ( I have had several family members get cancer.) My youngest son was the scariest for me. He had it on the tip of his ear. He had to have two cuttings of it to get rid of it…

    • Hi Alesia. I know. I know. Joe and his father, as well as my father, have all had skin cancer scares so I know that a hat is a necessity. And now I have one. 🙂

  2. Kevin, I hate wearing a hat too! Over the years though, I’ve given in to an occasional hat day, plus other necessities like gloves, long underwear, and a couple of Carhart jackets. All a part of growing up I guess.

  3. I too struggle with garden hats. Here in zone 6, our summers are hot and humid and although I adore a visor to keep sun out of my eyes, any hat causes my face to perspire so much, I spend more time toweling my brow than doing the chore at hand.
    Therefore, I alternate amongst numerous hats – one old panama with splits from wear, one dense UV50 with wide brim, and another one draped with mosquito netting. Depending on the day, I might wear them all. No one hat is perfection. That said, I will continue to lust after and try on more hats as I find them. Happy Gardening!

  4. I do ok with snow caps. Totally useful for gardening in Texas. (This reminds me that I need a new sun hat…and they’ll all look oddly mismatched to my head when I go perching them there.)

  5. The one hat that has served me well through the years probably can be found in a sporting goods store that caters to fisherman, and should be quite common in Fla.
    It is khaki in color, has a long beak, wide brim and a sun flap down the back to cover your neck. That with some sunscreen and shades and you’ll be set to go.You won’t win a beauty contest but you will protect yourself from the sun. All you need with that straw hat is some fava beans.

    • Hi Dad. I’ve seen that hat — and it was actually one of the styles that I tried on for size. Not for me though — I needed one that felt right on an emotional, fashionable, personal level. 🙂

  6. Kevin, I feel your hat pain; I have a very small head and always have trouble finding hats that don’t fall down over my eyes to rest on the bridge of my nose. When I find one that fits, it’s cause for rejoicing! It’s probably just as well the baseball cap didn’t work out. I know several people who’ve had to be treated for skin cancers or pre-cancerous skin cells at the temples because they always wore baseball caps, which don’t screen that part of the face.

    • Hi Jean. I’m actually glad the baseball hat doesn’t work out. You’re right — it doesn’t cover the ears and it doesn’t feel natural. I’m still adjusting to wearing a hat — but I do like those moments when I can stand in the shade and fan myself with it. 🙂 By the way, if you need me to share some of my head girth with you, just ask. 🙂

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