There was once a time, very long ago, when hats were moderately new inventions. This was around the time when a tablet was just that – a slab of stone, used primarily as a hunting or sharpening tool and not as a means of updating your twitter feed.
Man needed a way to protect himself – especially his eyes – from the elements, and thus the first hat was born. As time passed and man began to wage war against himself, and the hat became a helmet, for protection from our own weapons.
Pretty soon humanity came to a point where hats became multi-functional, serving as all these things mentioned as well as a statement of sorts. It wasn’t long before the hat, with its versatile history and nature, wormed its way into popular culture as a fashion statement and even sometimes a statement of rank or wealth.
The versatility of the hat makes it a perfect go to accessory, whether you want to add that extra splash of color to your outfit, or you’re just trying to hide your bed hair while you make a quick dash to the supermarket. African culture is no exception, with ceremonial hats dating hundreds of years back. We can even see their prevalence and importance in West African culture and media; how many of you remember the Boy Alinco cap?
And many thanks to Banky W for showing us the difference a properly worn hat makes
Where We Go Wrong
In all my time traversing the African landscape – since birth, for reference – a few issues have made themselves clear to me. While respectfully staying within the parameters of my own business (staying in my lane, for short), I couldn’t help but notice the myriad of people using the noble hat wrongly. Now I’m not one to begrudge a person their own unique style, and I love people who are not afraid to take fashion risks – that’s how new styles are created. However, as a hat lover myself, there are a few things I think we can afford to get right while enjoying the many benefits hats have to offer:
1. Does it need to be worn backwards?
This one applies almost exclusively to face caps. There is no hard and fast rule here, but if you ever do find yourself about to give your face cap that all too common 180 degree turn, I believe it’s a good idea to stop and ask yourself this question. Yes, there was a time when it was cool to wear your face cap in this manner, and that was way back when you got in one little fight and your mom got scared.
These days, anyone wearing their hat backwards is, in the immortal words of Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, so two thousand and late. There are occasions when it’s cool and retro to wear your face cap in this manner, but a frequent cap wearer will soon find that these are few and far between.
2. Most hats ARE machine washable, people!
The fact that I even have to comment on this frightens me to an extent. I think this faux pas is born of the assumption that hats are like bracelets or watches, or any other accessory that doesn’t necessarily experience much wear during the course of the day, and as such does not get dirty.
I’m sure the larger majority of us can see the lie in this, especially if you’ve ever owned a wristwatch with a leather strap. That terrible smell it leaves on your hand after a long day – that’s caused by sweat and dust that accumulates underneath your watch strap. And if your wristwatch can get dirty just imagine how foul a hat gets as it mops up all the sweat from your brow.
In this day and age of washing machines, there is really no excuse for having a filthy hat. Majority of the hats we wear today are made to be machine washable, but if you are not sure you can always check the label. And even if it’s not machine washable, a little brush and some soap never killed anybody.
3. What’s the event?
This is another question that can be very handy for keeping yourself in check when it comes to hat wearing. There are some occasions where it’s quite obvious that you shouldn’t be wearing a hat; for example, in a church. What doesn’t seem to be very obvious to some West Africans is that almost like people, hats have personalities of sorts. There are over forty different types of hats, and those are just the mainstream ones, so there should be no occasion for which the perfect hat does not exist. Just as in the first point, it is a good idea when dressing up to stop and ponder, “I’m wearing a fedora with my agbada. Have I gone too far?”
4. Do you know your head?
Another reason people sometimes look silly wearing hats is that they don’t take the time to find out what’s right for them. Because hats can be bought straight off the shelves, some people don’t realize that as with other items of clothing, hats should fit YOU and not the other way around. We all have different head shapes and sizes, and a style of hat that works for a friend of yours might not necessarily be the style you need to frame your face and highlight your best features.
When picking out a hat, it’s always good to know your size. You can get this checked out at a tailor’s, or even at some hat stores. It’s important to wear a hat that’s not too big or small to get the optimum effect.
5. Act accordingly!
The final ingredient when dressing up is to infuse your ensemble with your own personality. Whether you’re rocking a bowler hat with native, or a fedora with a three-piece suit, there is a certain flair that each look demands in order to carry it out well. If you’re a naturally shy person you might want to stay away from the more attention grabbing hats like the bowler and settle for a demure face cap or beanie. And vice versa, of course.
Now go forth children, and commit hatrocities no more.