Ode to a Fedora

photo (3)Recently I found a fedora in my closet. It was sitting where it has sat for almost two decades, wearing a fine coat of dust, pushed back out of sight on a high shelf. It’s a brown fedora with a wide cloth band that is also brown, though darker by several shades. The brim turns down in front, and in the back it turns up, in classic fedora style. Inside, the sweat-stained label identifies the hat as a Stetson.

I was seventeen when I met the man who owned the fedora, the same man who would become my father-in-law a few years later, and he scared the hell out of me. He was about six feet tall, and I don’t mean to insult him posthumously, but I suspect the needle on his bathroom scale stopped closer to three hundred pounds than two hundred. I had heard a few stories about how tough he was, and people said he had a mean streak. That may have been true when he was a younger man, but when I met him he was nearing sixty years old, and he must have mellowed, because he was always cordial to me. We didn’t have much in common, other than his daughter, and our conversations were usually short and stuck to general topics like the weather or his vegetable garden.

The only time I ever heard my father-in-law talk at length was on holidays when his family gathered at his house. He would sit with his two sons in the living room and talk for hours about a single subject that never varied over the years – the Missouri Pacific Railroad. All three of them were life-long MoPac men, so they talked about railroad people they knew who were sick, or hurt, or who had died or done something stupid, like run an engine off the track. They talked about the union and the latest injury settlements and supervisors who were idiots and men who got fired and then re-hired, because no one ever seemed to get fired permanently from the railroad. I would listen to their stories sometimes, but with nothing of my own to contribute, I would usually gravitate to another room and look for a football game on TV.

My father-in-law lived and breathed the Missouri Pacific, but Old Milwaukee beer was his sustenance. He had an old stuffed chair that he hauled out to his garage after it was deemed unsuitable for the den, and he stationed it within arms reach of a refrigerator that was perpetually stocked with beer. It didn’t matter if the weather outside was scorching hot or freezing cold, he would sit in that chair with the garage door open and drink his Old Milwaukee from the fourteen ounce cans, because it cost less than the other brands in a twelve ounce can. My father-in-law liked bang for his buck. I never asked him why he preferred the ratty old chair in the garage to a much  nicer one in the house, but I have a theory about it. I can still picture him sitting there, Old Milwaukee beer in hand, wearing the fedora.

Standing in my closet a quarter of a century later, studying the dusty hat, a notion crossed my mind that I should start wearing it. I have always appreciated the look of the fedora, and given that my scalp now needs protection from the sun, I saw it as a fashionable solution to a bothersome problem. So I put it on my head, and to my amazement, it didn’t fit. It was too small. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. How could the head of such an imposing man be smaller than my own?

But apparently it was the case. So I put the fedora back on the shelf, to gather more layers of dust. It’s probably just as well. Even if the hat had fit, I could never think of it as mine. It belongs to a man from another place and time, and that’s how it should stay.

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About Truman

I find myself on the downside of my sixtieth year, older but not old, wiser but not wise, and still wondering what I want to be when I grow up.
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76 Responses to Ode to a Fedora

  1. kaitlynkady says:

    I am huge fan of fedora. I haven’t time to go shopping but when I do I will defintely upgrade my style. I am in need of a serious makeover 🙂

  2. I am a hat lover but only own a ball cap. I truly understand where your writing came from — the signature piece (the hat) that holds so many memories. I was sadly disappointed to hear that the hat didn’t fit you. If you ever want to sell it and buy yourself a hat that is your size, I would consider it (if it was my hat size). Or you could try listing it on Ebay with the stories above as a sort of certificate of authenticity… set the reserve really high!

    • Truman says:

      I don’t think my wife would allow me to sell it, but thanks for the suggestions. The truth is I’m not really a hat person anyway.

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  4. mlnarik says:

    Beautifully. Written. It’s a shame that most of the fedora wearers of today that I ever see are just socially-awkward anime fanatics. This stylish hat has gotten a pretty cruddy rap sheet from its wearers lately.

  5. Don Ostertag says:

    Your writing hits home with me. Keep the fedora on the shelf; but go out and buy yourself a hat so those following will have memories of you when they see your hat. I’m older than you; and I remember how I felt when I was old enough to buy my first fedora. Too bad wearing a hat is a lost art. I do plan to keep reading you blog. .

  6. cattaneoHernan21 says:

    The web is great, long time till my last visit. Added to favs. Greets

  7. aslak122 says:

    I wanted to be Tom Mix, then Tarzan, then a Marine, then an English professor when I grew up. Then I found out what I wanted to do and I was grown up and writing novels.

  8. nitnat15 says:

    It’s always special when you find something from back then and something that means a lot to the family and now you.

  9. Lorem Ipsum says:

    Might I suggest a snappier more child-friendly title for your piece, if I may be so bold: “Fedora the Explorer”. Consider it a gift. It’s always good to cover all the demographics. Other than that, the post is a nicely observed piece of writing. Well done!

  10. tinkadele says:

    It’s amazing the stories that are collected and the life that is injected into any one single object in a persons life. Aside from this, the fedora is a classic and timeless choice for a hat!

  11. I love that vintage hat!

  12. i always wondered what type of hat that was, now i know…
    the concept of the things we wear, and how they describe the life of the people who wear/wore them..it’s quite incredible. in the end, we all die (from dust to dust) yet the tangible things remain behind, unable to be taken to the grave. well written..thanks for sharing this heartfelt post.

  13. L. Palmer says:

    It’s always nice when we find that one object that ties us to our past, and brings back someone we’ve lost.

  14. reocochran says:

    I enjoyed this story and ode to a fedora. Too bad in a way that it didn’t fit. You never know maybe a little bit of his spirit would have seeped in and created some weird versions of stories that you started but he ended. I am just being silly. Thank you for being Freshly Pressed so I could come across this story and follow your next ones, too!

  15. Jessica says:

    Odd isn’t it how you can be nostalgic for something(someone) you never quite had even when it was around?

  16. doveseyeswisdom says:

    Reblogged this on doveseyeswisdom's Blog and commented:
    @hoeyt…you may want to follow this guy. (Yes, ik I’m not on twitter haha; couldn’t resist!!)

  17. Simply and beautifully written, thank you for sharing

  18. Jess Renard says:

    Beautiful tribute, Truman, glad to come across.

  19. Amazing how our perception of things doesn’t always match reality. Great story. I have the opposit problem. My head is much bigger than what people think.

  20. Interesting fedora… I love how it depicts the essence of a thing in relation to its owner.. lovely read.. Honestly though, I didn’t know what a fedora is, now I know. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  21. murphyji says:

    I acquired both age and hat at the same time. The sixtieth year wasn’t so bad. The body is holding out and well it’s only another number.I found the granda title scary but hey that was out of my control and I’m still trucking. The hat was an indirect gift. It was bought by a friend who reckoned who looked like ‘a dick’ wearing it. It’s a porkpie so I thought to test drive it and thats two years ago, still driving.As they say “If you wanna get ahead get a hat”. Best

  22. Welcome to the club (approaching 60). I have a Stetson and a Borsalino in my garage (my dad’s) that I don’t have the heart to throw out. I’m in constant search mode for someone who would both wear and appreciate their style and quality — tough to find the past few generations. I was never a hat guy (‘cept a stocking cap in winter, or a good ‘ol Woody Allen flop hat for the rain). So there they’ll stay as a subtle reminder of a more formal past, and the man I will never be. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

  23. beingserbian says:

    Lovely post. My grandfather wore a fedora pretty much all his life. Whenever I see a man wearing one, I have to stop an urge to run and see if it’s the ghost of grandpa.

  24. I really enjoyed this post! Thank you for sharing it, and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  25. Arya Ingvorsen says:

    A lovely profile of your father in law. I think you definitely need to go out and treat yourself to your own hat, a hat so fantastic that people will be talking about it, and you, in generations to come!

  26. billduff says:

    I’ve always thought it a good idea to try on a new hat – you never know if the new look will be a good one. That you found your own identity again is a good thing – but having tried the hat – you will never be the same. Funny how small things can alter us forever. Now – if you found a pair of shoes…. grin

  27. sandraeileen says:

    Lovely piece, there was emotion in your description.

  28. nedkelly944 says:

    Loved the story, beautifully depicted. However, there is always a caveat, did you never think of getting a hat of your own, I agree with the comment above that another man’s hat never fits, (bowler, deerstalker or better yet beanie with a propeller) sitting down with a beer of your choice and breaking into the triumvirate of himself and his sons instead of skulking away to watch a football match? Think of the benefits that could have been gained on both sides. The memories might have stretched a lot further than a fedora!

  29. This is writing well done, a deserved freshly pressed!

  30. Kylie says:

    Lovely immersive writing, wonderfully descriptive and real. Plus I’ve got a bit of a thing for hats. Since my great-aunt passed away a few years ago, I’ve been wearing her hand-knitted hat in tribute: http://handmadebykylie.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/my-hat/

    I’ll be keeping an eye on your blog in the future!

  31. Soul Walker says:

    Sometimes things really can earn an air of significance by virtue of who used them… your ending is beautiful.

  32. jpwolf90 says:

    Great writing, it completely captivated me. I can imagine everything,it so atmospheric. 🙂 Beautiful.

  33. ruxaradu says:

    The ending is so beautiful…

  34. Beautifully written- and atmospheric. I love the end.

  35. I still feel that warm nostalgia when I check my grandfathers old watch on my wrist every day. Brilliantly expressed, thank you!

  36. Alison says:

    Great post. So well-written and overall just lovely. I really enjoyed it. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed; well-deserved!!

  37. I hadn’t thought of fedoras, Old Milwaukee beer, or railroad men in years, but you brought them all together nicely in this piece. Well done.

  38. andy1076 says:

    I love this post, thank you for giving us a Friday story to think about 🙂

  39. I loved your story. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂

  40. This is so real, gives a very clear image, thank you

    The only time I ever heard my father-in-law talk at length was on holidays when his family gathered at his house. He would sit with his two sons in the living room and talk for hours about a single subject that never varied over the years – the Missouri Pacific Railroad. All three of them were life-long MoPac men, so they talked about railroad people they knew who were sick, or hurt, or who had died or done something stupid, like run an engine off the track. They talked about the union and the latest injury settlements and supervisors who were idiots and men who got fired and then re-hired, because no one ever seemed to get fired permanently from the railroad. I would listen to their stories sometimes, but with nothing of my own to contribute, I would usually gravitate to another room and look for a football game on TV.

  41. What a wonderful story. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  42. Zyriacus says:

    Enchanting post. I own at least two different fedoras – a black and a brown one. When I grew up, fedoras were a common sight on the street. I liked to wear them, but when I took to driving a car they kept coming off when mounting the car or getting off since car doors have gotten lower in time. So I took to my old sailors cap and the fedoras are – as yours – gathering dust on the shelf.

  43. helen1950 says:

    I love this story and the way it was written. It is a style I enjoy and aspire to. I was going to say ‘I wish I could savour it and emulate it’ … then I thought . “isn’t that just what the man said?” What a way to start the day I am in your debt _/\_ x

  44. Kate_Lalic says:

    wow nice text !! nicely written

  45. Anonymous says:

    Excellent writing.

    • aslak122 says:

      I have a brimmed hat from LLBean I’ve worn for years when I go on my early morning walk. On of its virtues, and for which it advertised, is that one can jam it in a pocket, and it comes out just as shapeless as when it went in. Waterproof, too. And nothing in looks like the one in your closet!

  46. lexiesnana says:

    Hats off to a great read. I really enjoyed it.

  47. pezcita says:

    It seems that hats in general belong to a different time, unless it’s cold out. I wonder why people stopped wearing them? Too hard to store? Too easy to lose? Too expensive?

  48. jibarican says:

    Gorgeous story to a fitting hat

  49. Hi Truman, Who would have thought that such a touching & fuzzy story could be fashioned out of a HAT 😉

  50. Lovely story, well told.

  51. segmation says:

    What a nice nostagia way to remember this fedora! Cheers!!!

  52. poemattic says:

    This was my father’s favorite hat. He always looked so handsome in his hat. I must say I find hats quite elegant. Thanks for your post.

  53. For my old man the beer of choice was Oly, then Miller Lite. Since we didn’t have a garage he preferred his old recliner in the living room, watching the NFL on not one but two TVs, back in the days before DVRs, and sweating out every $20 bet he made with his bookie. I miss him very much. I sense you miss pop-in-law more than you thought. And so goes family.

  54. Adrian Makoć says:

    Wow! Nice post.
    I invite you to me: http://bloogmylife.wordpress.com

  55. Phenomenal. A beautiful piece of writing.

  56. Your post brought back some great memories for me. My father-in-law was a railroad man too. My “Dad” had a thing about his beer and refrigerator, too. Thank you for writing this!

  57. Josh Flaum says:

    Beautifully written!

  58. 3mber87 says:

    This was nicely written. I enjoyed the details because it made me feel like I knew your FIL personally. Good read!

  59. I loved this piece! As a hat man I can tell you that another mans hat never does really fit. You know what I mean? Also when you described your father in law physically you could have been describing me.

  60. kerbey says:

    Nicely written, even if your head is enormous. You could still toast him with a can of Old Milwaukee, though.

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