Wednesday, June 15, 2016

On Hats: An Essay

            The following is a piece that I submitted to my college’s student-run magazine. Then, for some reason, they accepted it. This is basically a not-so-brief explanation for the whole hat thing.

On Hats

By Benjamin Sonnek
Anyone who occupied my presence for more than five minutes may note that I like to wear hats. I do, I confess. I do quite a bit. But these presence-occupiers can occupy my said presence for five, ten, even fifteen minutes (if the butter knife they’re using to saw through their restraining ropes is dull) without asking me the Question: What’s up with the hat? Translated: Do you use that accessory for any other reason than to take up the vacant space around your cranium? That unasked Question, therefore, has remained unanswered throughout my lifetime hat-wearing sojourn. I intend to answer it today—to spare you the agony of sitting through this multi-pointed explanation in person (if that butter knife is too slow on the ropes, you might go for the wrists, and I don’t need death on my conscience). So, first reason:
            It keeps stuff out of my eyes. Allow me to start with the practical side of a hat. If anyone sits within a ten-foot radius of an eyewear-selling optometrist, no doubt you will hear the countless negative effects that nature has on your eyes. The sun is a vicious killer, not only of your retinas but also of your skin. Rain in the face is simply annoying. And I’m certain someone in Sodom (or maybe Gomorrah) was at some point complaining about either fire or brimstone nailing him in the face. Things falling from the sky are clearly an issue, and the hatmaker gives everyone a head-mounted shield in the event of such catastrophes. Sun? Your face shall remain unscorched and your eyes unmelted. Rain? Not in the eyeballs, it’s not. Wrath of the Almighty? At least you won’t get it in the face. However, I must add that your nose may be in the lurch. I definitely have a schnozz. The spurned sun, in a fit of burning cruelty, typically goes after my nose in lieu of my whole face, and my hat is powerless to help (unless I look down or go inside or something). So, unless I get a mask, lose the nose, or add three inches to my hat brim, I’m not wholly protected. But who cares, because…
            It looks awesome. Hats look awesome. Let us skip the philosophical proofs and just agree that as a rule. Indiana Jones has a hat. Captain Jack Sparrow—hat guy, and all pirate leaders seem to be wearing hats as a matter of office. Carmen Sandiego—probably stole that hat, but still wears it, and it works on her. Cad Bane—yes, the reference is nerdy, but the hat is still excellent. The list rambles on and on and on. But you’ll notice, not only are the hats awesome, but they confer some of that awesomeness to the bearers beneath them. Without hats, Miss Sandiego is merely some petty thief and Dr. Jones is just a middle-aged schmuck on a treasure hunt. A hat is right up there with the cape in terms of the amplification of the theatric. But before I continue, I must clarify: good hats amp up the awesome. That effect never comes about from a baseball cap. Ugh. Sorry, dedicated cap-wearing peoples, but when you wear a baseball cap even the right way around I have a hard time taking you seriously. Kids can pull it off. Baseball players are toeing the line. The rest of you suffer instant schmuckification in my eyes by branding your foreheads with a duck bill and a sports symbol. Again, this is only in the best-case scenario when you are wearing it the correct way ‘round. (Editor’s note: Try not to worry about it. If something annoys him, that’s probably a good sign for you.) But if you get a good hat…
            It enhances the ego. Glowering from under a hat brim. Throwing your hat in the air in celebration, or stomping on it in reverse celebration. Adjusting your hat before charging out the doorway on a mission of (*snort*) great importance. Mexico even has a dance that is sombrero-centric. Yes, a hat can amplify all sorts of emotion, which is a good thing for me—my normal emotional state reduces me to but a nutrient-consuming security camera.
            It distracts from my face. I gave up on my face years ago. At some point I had to accept that the giant potato in the mirror wasn’t going to get any better, and odds are it will be all downhill until I end up a cross between a toucan and Jeremy Clarkson. But hats, while they cannot fix anything below the hairline and above my neck, can at least provide a remedy. Reread the “hats are awesome” claim one more time, and you should better understand what I mean. People are blinded by the majesty of the hat while completely forgetting the face beneath it. Be careful, though, or the effect could become so powerful that your presence will be completely absorbed and the only sign of your existence will be a fedora floating around the campus. It’s a remarkable sight, but it gets old quickly.
            It is circular. And here, obviously, I rule out hateful baseball caps. The circle has been an important symbol from the ancient era, whether it be the blueprint of the wheel or a representation of God or a visualization of the infinite or the typical shape of a pizza. A round hat draws the mind to the infinite, like the wearer’s infinite quest for perfection or the perpetual nature of the soul or its never-ending desire for pizza. It’s a miniature meditation on the protective omnipotence of God—the hat is slightly out of my peripheral vision yet can be felt by its effects. A tricorn hat with its Trinitarian shape can claim this idea as well, but the turning of the centuries have subtly ushered that fashion out of fashion. For shame. At least we have pizza to console us. It can also be triangular, I believe.
It helps me receive the signals from my alien crime bosses. This again relates to the hat’s circular shape. My ordinary, round, thick-skulled skull can only get garbled static from space, much like the interference you get when there’s a thunderstorm and your favorite TV show is about to come on. When I wear a hat, though, the radius of the broadcast receiver antenna is increased significantly and therefore I get a better signal. It’s not yet perfect, mind you. I can’t tell if the extraterrestrials want me to move three feet to the left or conquer Austria, but until Windows sends out a useful software update I suppose they’re not getting any better. Oh well—I can receive just enough of their instructions so that I know exactly how to ignore them. With any luck they’ll give up and use the extra transmitting power to continue melting brains via earth’s native television technology.
That is only a taste of the reasons I wear a hat, my dear clearly captive or very bored reader. When my ten-volume work of hat-related benefits comes into your local Barnes & Noble, I’ll expect you to further your knowledge of the subject so you too will be convinced to find such a hat for yourself. Or at least you will remember to dive out a window if you see me coming. I’m the one with the hat.