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Arizona Hats

By Michael Yeager

One of the great things about living in Arizona is you can wear big Arizona hats.

Katie and I first moved to Arizona in 2002 and lived in Prescott for two years. Since the Arizona sun is so intense, I decided I needed a hat that gave me more sun protection than my collection of baseball caps.

Arizona Hats, Michael's hat
Michael Yeager's hat
As I walked around the downtown area I noticed lots of people wearing big hats. Without wasting any time, I purchased one from a downtown store. I’d never worn a big hat before and I have to admit it felt strange. It was like having a beach umbrella on my head and took some getting used to. I actually worried about knocking into things with it. When I would catch my reflection in the glass of the store fronts I’d think, damn that’s a big hat. But the longer I wore it, the more I got used to it.

Prescott evolved from being a cowboy town. It boasts having the oldest rodeo in the US and was the capital of Arizona Territory before it became a state. It doesn’t have the Spanish influence like many Arizona towns and still looks like a cowboy town.

Walking around with my big hat, I expected people to look at me like I was strange, but nobody did. As I passed other people wearing big hats, I tried to catch their eyes, as if we were in some kind of big hat club. In general, the people of Prescott are friendly and a lot of them smiled and greeted me, but it didn’t seem to have anything to do with my hat.

Arizona Hats, Katie's hat
Katie Yeager's hat
I began noticing different kinds of hat people. The cowboy types, mostly men, but some women, looked comfortable in their big cowboy hats. Some of them must have been wearing their “town hats”, they were either brown, black or white, perfectly shaped and very clean. Others wore hats that had seen a lot of wear and tear.

Many young people wore cowboy hats as well. It seems the young cowboys and the old cowboys wore the biggest hats.

One old guy’s hat was so big I assume he was making some kind of statement with it. Possibly it was “Screw you, I’ve got a very big hat.” I don’t think I’d have the courage to wear a hat that big.

Many of the cowboys leave their hats on in restaurants. Once in British Columbia, Canada, my son left his baseball cap on in a restaurant and the waiter wouldn’t serve us until he took it off. I don’t know what one of these Arizona cowboys would have done in that situation, probably refuse to take it off on that cowboy principle. I would be quite hesitant to approach some of the guys I’ve seen wearing much bigger hats than my son wore.

The Quakers refused to take their hats off indoors and many of them died because of it. I have a feeling if it was the cowboy with the hat on, it would be the other guy doing the dying.

We now live in Green Valley, a retirement area, and many of the retirees also wear hats. There are not as many cowboy hats down here. The ones I have seen are mostly worn by Mexican American workers. The golfers’ hats don’t really make it into the big hat category, but Panama hats do and they are very popular. I think the men look good in these Panama hats, sort of a “our man in Havana” look, sophisticated but casual.

Many of the retirees don’t wear hats at all. I guess they have good health insurance and a good relationship with their dermatologist.

Some of the biggest hats are worn by women. They have more variety to choose from. I remember in the ‘50s when every Easter my mom and the other women in town would buy a new hat to wear to church. Some of them were very big. I have the pictures to prove it.

My wife and I were in Paris a few years ago. The Parisians don’t generally wear hats and if they do it is a tasteful Beret. I wore a yellow baseball cap over there and got a lot of looks from the locals. I may as well have had a sign on my head that said, “I am a stupid American tourist without any taste at all.” I don’t expect many Arizona cowboys go to Paris. Anyway, there’s no pleasing the Parisians unless you are one. C’est la vie.

If you want to wear a big hat, come to Arizona. You’ll love it and nobody will even notice.

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