Over Easy: If the hat fits, I’ll wear it

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

For the Valley News
Published: 1/10/2020 4:42:20 PM
Modified: 1/10/2020 4:41:41 PM

After several tours of duty as a newspaper columnist, it’s time for a deeply personal confession.

Only a few close friends know my secret, which is right there in plain sight, atop my shoulders.

Simply put, I have a big head, a commodious cranium, a notable noggin. In the realm of hats, my head is rated not large or extra large, but the next level, the great beyond — XXL.

Don’t get me wrong. The orb is not massive like the Rock of Gibraltar or Jupiter. When it casts a shadow, it doesn’t blot out the sun. I don’t get recruited for circus sideshows, although I suppose if I shaved my head and covered it in tattoos it could tell quite a tale.

As a boy, my head size was not an issue. Until a head reaches full maturity it’s run of the mill, much as is true for a county fair pumpkin. Baseball caps fit me fine in those years, so did the toques, or beanies, we wore in winter.

Later, the pressure to conform to average hat sizes was minimal. I grew up in a post-hat world. In the ’40s and ’50s, guys like Sinatra and Bogart looked swell in hats, but in the 1960s long hair was in and hats were out. Besides, I grew up in Rhode Island, where winters are wimpy. You could get by relatively hatless.

It wasn’t until we moved to Little Siberia, the Upper Valley of the early 1980s, that covering my head in the cold became a priority. The need grew more urgent when I started walking for exercise, half an hour to an hour a day.

For some reason, I thought hoods were goofy — as if any serious winter head covering makes a fashion statement. I rejected them, and slowly uncovered an awful truth as I searched for alternatives: The “one size fits all” label is a lie, a damnable lie.

Your average toque or watch cap goes onto my head without incident, but over time the hat slides up, slowly, like a cake rising in the oven. It is one thing to have a big head, it is quite another to have a big head with a pinhead hat perched on it. Some other styles of winter hats would fit, sometimes size large or allegedly extra large, with a slight tightness that initially seemed bearable. But extended squeezing leads to headaches, like a medieval torture device.

Mad bomber hats are often generously sized. Pretty or handsome models on TV look cute in them. More ordinary people look eccentric, or menacing. When I tried one on, my wife, Dede, shook her head and disapproved with every fiber of her being — leaving the final decision to me, of course.

In summer I would forget what winter hats I’d stockpiled, so I’d buy more when I found a possible match, even though most weren’t quite right. My hat collection kept growing, until this winter there was something of a family intervention because my hat horde reached what seemed to them an unreasonable size. I have donated some to a thrift store.

The future suddenly looks bright, as far as the warmth of my scalp is concerned. I searched for “hats for big heads” on the internet and found an Indiana web store that shipped a watch cap that stays put. Physics are on my side.

I also had good luck with Duluth Trading Co., which targets burly men. (For the record, I am not burly, even if my head seems to be.) When I saw several hats listed as XXL, I almost rejoiced, then waited for a sale before buying. Eureka, they fit!

I have meantime made peace with hoods, something I should have done long ago. I think the hoodie fad opened my eyes. A man wearing both a hat and a hood is ready to take on the world, come what may.

In the midst of such big-picture thinking, I came to wonder if there was some advantage to having a superlative head, circumference-wise. Poking around the internet didn’t uncover much evidence that big heads are linked with higher intelligence. It might be the extra interior space is wasted, as in many garages.

But there was a piece in The Guardian newspaper in England that reported that “being a fathead has its compensations.” It went on to say that scientists (at least a few of them involved in a certain study) found that “the larger a person’s head, the less likely their cognitive abilities are to decline in later years.”

May it be so. If my life turns out to be long, it would be nice to have a reliable memory along with my big head. After my long struggle with hats, it would even seem fitting.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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