David Knopf: A hat for every occasion, situation and location

03/04/2014 8:57 AM

03/04/2014 8:57 AM

I’d call myself the Imelda Marcos of hats, but it might be confusing.

For one thing, I’m not a woman, nor am I from the Philippines or filthy rich.

I buy my hats at thrifts, mostly at the Salvation Army here in Richmond near the News Bunker. Hats at this treasure trove of thrifty treats cost just 50 cents, so I buy as many as I want.

As a result, the closet at home is overflowing. And I have five cowboy hats on nails in the garage, and three hats, including a sinister fedora that makes me feel like a bootlegger, in the car.

There are two others tacked on a wall at work. One’s a 50-cent Ernest Tubb Record Shop hat that says the store’s in Nashville, Tenn.

I should note here that no one ever refers to Nashville without tacking “Tennessee” onto it. This must be Tennessee law or a country-music tradition.

Who doesn’t know where Nashville is? Here, where there’s confusion over Kansas City, Mo., vs. Kansas City, Kan., there’s no such state identifier. National sportscasters fly here for games and have no idea where they are.

Maybe they should wear hats that say, “I’m in Missouri!” or “I’m in Kansas!” I probably have both of those in my closet.

I don’t wear hats because I am embarrassed by hair loss. Not at all. I’ve got plenty on the sides and in back; so what if the top’s thin? I don’t care as long as the hat fits like a glove.

I’m very finicky about how hats feel and have been known to sigh audibly when I try one on and it’s a fit.

People who shop where I do don’t even look up, so I’m not worried. They’re too busy filling their carts on “bag day” — that’s when thrifts charge a dollar for everything you can stuff in a sack — so they can take it home, sell it for profit at their garage sale and come back the next week for more.

If this isn’t the capitalistic spirit, I don’t know what is. There’s probably a hat in my arsenal with just that sentiment.

Being finicky about hats is something I inherited from my father, Frank E. Knopf, CPA. He almost always wore those small-brimmed business fedoras guys in the Big Apple had to wear back in the 1950s.

Today those hats would be worth a fortune in antique-collectible malls, but not at my thrift. Here, all hats are 50 cents, take it or leave it.

My father was always worried about someone sitting on his hat. Why he’d place it on the rear car seat while he was driving was beyond me. Maybe there was another 1950s rule that said you couldn’t wear a fedora while driving.

If he thought his hat was in imminent danger, the tendons in his neck would bulge out and almost break through the skin.

I have so many hats I don’t really care if you sit on one. In fact, compacting them might make room for more.

In addition to fit, I’m very finicky about the attention a hat attracts. I love cowboy hats, but not the stares I figure I get when I wear them. I fully expect someone to say, “Hey, you’re not really a cowboy!” or “Hey, mister, this isn’t the West!” and embarrass me to death. I prefer going unnoticed.

Cowboy-hat embarrassment can be a real problem in Kansas City — Missouri

and Kansas. But it wouldn’t be at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. In Nashville, Tenn., everyone wears one.

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