Hats off, gentlemen
"Never wear a hat with more character that you have." - John Foster Dulles
Probably, it started with the invention of the plastic snap-adjusting strip in the rear, creating the true "one size fits all". Or perhaps it coincided with the zenith of popularity of baseball players. For whatever reason, about twenty years ago, "baseball" caps became the headgear of choice for our industry - a fad that has outstayed its time.
We all own dozens of them. Salesmen and organizations hand them out like candy to children. I have friends who collect them, for Pete's sake. If we ignore for the moment the obvious aesthetic questions, we are still left with the increasingly serious medical issues that have recently been identified as a result of chronic use of farmer caps.
- The Heartbreak of "HAT-HAIR": Prolonged use of a farmer cap can cause the socially humiliating condition known medically as folliculus ridiculous, or more commonly, "hat-hair". It is characterized by a horizontal dead furrow above and below which the hair resumes its normal shape. I have discovered many farmers spend an astounding amount of time distributing their dwindling hair resources strategically about the skull, often resorting to part-lines that start just above the shoulder in order to cover the top portion of their sparsely populated dome. These efforts, however valiant and transparent, are severely impacted by the effect of a farmer cap. Even robustly hirsute (hairy) persons are scarred for hours with what looks like an O-ring groove around their head. This alarming situation then reinforces itself by forcing the wearer to keep his cap on to prevent ridicule.
- The "Cap Tan": The persistent use of farmer caps has caused the widespread incidence of a peculiar marking from solar exposure. From the hat-line downward, the wearer sports a (until very recently) fashionably deep brown pigmentation ending with startling abruptness just above the ears. This coloration can cause a stunning monotony in conversation, as every observer assumes he or she is the first to notice it and can't wait to slip in an unoriginal zinger. To top it off, so to speak, we now learn that such headgear does little to protect its owner from damage to the skin from the sun.
- Button Indention: At the top of all farmer caps, integral to the construction, is a small metallic button that goes virtually unnoticed until the occupant rises up under some very firm, immovable surface, such as a field cultivator frame. This action can drive the afore-mentioned button deeply into the delicate tissue of the upper skull, with an attendant pain not unlike childbirth, or so I guess. This effect is magnified by the usual scarcity of natural ground cover in the area, leaving only a thin, but extremely sensitive, skin layer to assume the full force of impact. Scientists have documented cases where the small button had to be surgically removed at (surprise, surprise) great cost.
- Ingrown Hat: Partly due to the medical miseries listed above, but also abetted by lackadaisical social training, is the unfortunate phenomenon of the ingrown hat. This pathetic situation occurs when the wearer has lost the ability to tell when it is appropriate to wear a hat and when not. Sufferers can be seen wearing hats when indoors, when speaking to ladies, when the flag passes or during the national anthem, or at a funeral. It is also reported that unfortunate sufferers of ingrown hat have been seen eating with work caps on. While this is hard to believe, especially considering the opinions their mothers must have of such conduct, not to mention the obvious food sanitation problem, it is not incurable. Intensive therapy and support groups, coupled with a national telethon raising lots of big bucks should be planned to cope with this social malady. This author, for instance, could be a poster child.
- The Billboard Hat: Along with the bumper sticker and T-shirt, the hat has become the main channel of self-expression for many people, almost eliminating the need for coherent speech. We proclaim our allegiance to this team, idea, seed corn, or product by our choice of headgear. Things we would not say in public we place on our hats to be seen by all. Who says the First Amendment is in jeopardy?
It is not hard to long for an earlier time when hats had mystery, and a certain je ne ce quoi (literally, studliness). For that matter, they often worked better to protect the owner from the elements. To make it worse, because they are now so inseparable from the image of a farmer, we are branded by the cap's shortcomings. For instance, nobody can look even mildly intelligent when they have pulled their cap down tight during a stiff breeze. Because they are used as parts carriers or grain samplers or insect obliterators, our hats are seldom examples of cleanliness. Since this is unavoidable in our profession, perhaps we should develop some detachment from these old friends. To which end I offer these simple rules of hat etiquette:
- Take the hat off indoors. The reason for wearing it, after all, is to protect from the outside environment.
- Don't wear words on your cap that you wouldn't want your grandmother to ask you about.
- Change your cap every three thousand miles or three months.
One final note: Until the telethon to fund research into Farmer Cap Syndrome (FCS) is in operation, you can send your contributions directly to me (cash).