Bogey stands at the corner, spotlit by the street lamp, rain thudding down onto his hat and streaming off the brim. He grasps the lapels of his raincoat, pulling them tight against his neck and hunching up his shoulders. As a gentleman and lady companion emerge from the building opposite, the camera zooms in on Bogey’s hangdog features. He utters a cynical and cryptic, yet characteristically humane, comment.
So much easier to zoom in without an umbrella in the way. So much more atmosphere generated by the cocoon of hat brim and lapels. Easier, too, to remain hidden and lope away without the fuss of an umbrella to furl.
If you own a proper hat, you’ve probably felt what it’s like to be equally protected and unencumbered. If you don’t, I can only encourage you to get one and try it.
People get surprisingly wet these days. Leaving my office as it begins spitting outside, I notice that most people scamper from building to building, their clothes protected perhaps by a coat, but their heads entirely exposed. The only person not scampering is a lone man, entirely unprotected but walking slowly through the middle of it, as if to prove that getting wet is nothing to fuss about.
It’s not, this is true. But that man is unlikely to have many clothes that he cares enough about to protect from the rain. He has no idea why the lapels of some suits bubble or what salt stains on shoes are. The others that have a raincoat to protect their clothes are still scampering, because they don’t want to get their hair and neck wet. Most people find it irritating, and in the winter rather cold.
They should buy a hat. Once you wear a raincoat with a hat, the whole system seems to come together. Design becomes function. The brim is wide enough such that water does not drip inside the upturned collar. Felt is extremely effective at keeping the water out. OK, the water doesn’t run off like it would do with a manmade material, but the hat recovers perfectly well and your head can breathe.
Without a hat, a raincoat makes little sense. The collar is designed to be upturned, fastened all the way up and secured tightly across the neck. If you have an umbrella, this merely keeps out the wind. If you don’t have an umbrella, it is little protection against rain, which usually falls down rather than up or sideways.
With a hat, your hands are free. With a hat, you don’t have an awkward metre of wood (the umbrella) to store at your destination, and forget on the train. It is liberating.
There are of course many other advantages to a grown man wearing a hat. In the winter his options for going to work are not limited to a tweed cap or a beanie, for one. But the most enduring pleasure you will get from owning a proper hat is striding through the rain, dry as a bone, while those around you grasp their umbrellas against the wind, clash them against each other or try to turn them the right way out again.
Buy a hat.