I never wear hats. But I need a hat.
April 15, 2013 7:12 AM   Subscribe

So, summer's rolling around and I think I need a hat. Unfortunately, I don't 'know sports' or have high enough style to pull off a fedora/habana/or whatnot.

Spurred by the ever-increasing sunlight and my decreasing defense against it. One route is the 'cool baseball hat', which seems only slightly different than the classic-baseball-hat. Example would be the American Apparel version? Maybe it's the shorter brim that makes the difference? My 'personal style' could be described as an out-of-date, middle-of-the-road Apple-commercial hipster. No explicit price cap (get it?) but a $200 hat would have to be something extremely special.
posted by tmcw to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (32 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The unbranded ball cap is a fine idea, but flat caps might be worth looking into as well (Mr. A owns the linked example and he quite likes it).
posted by AmandaA at 7:19 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure you need to "know sports" to wear a baseball cap. I never wear hats, and I'm largely indifferent to the world of men being paid large amounts of money to run around on grass, but I happily protect my eyes from the hated Daystar with a cap with a local sports-team logo.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:20 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

(I say this not to actively encourage sports-hats, but simply because I find them to be an easy "default" that saves me the time/energy of actually staring at ten thousand nearly-identical unbranded caps and trying to decide which one to buy.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:22 AM on April 15, 2013

My dad rocks a hat that's a sort of crocodile dundee/indiana jones type thing, a lot like this, and looks ace in all seasons.
posted by greenish at 7:23 AM on April 15, 2013

I wear a straw hat (not a specific recommendation, but like this one) all summer. You can usually find inexpensive ones in the golf section of sporting goods stores.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:24 AM on April 15, 2013

Baseball caps are the default hat for men these days, especially out in sunshiney activities. If you don't want one from a sports team, get one at the Gap or Target without a logo, or with a silly logo.
posted by xingcat at 7:24 AM on April 15, 2013

Goorin makes some fine hats for all seasons. Worth a look if you want a nice stylish hat.
posted by gnutron at 7:28 AM on April 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

A simple baseball cap is fine, but it doesn't shade your ears. Personally, in the realm of caps, I wear a completely unornamented (no rivets, logos, fancy stitching) Fidel-type hat. I think it looks marginally sharper than a baseball cap, and is moderately different.

That said, I'd say fight your reluctance and go with a simple straw fedora. You really don't need to be a super cool hipster to pull one off, particularly if you break it in. Unlike a felt fedora, it really is fine with shirtsleeves--it's nowhere near as formal. It's a hat for the beach--but looks great on the street.

I think the cloth flatcap in the first comment would be much harder to pull off than the straw fedora, and (apologies to your dad) the bush hat should be left in the Outback for dingoes to eat.

Also--I creeped on your site, and saw a picture of you--you could totally pull off a straw fedora wearing the outfit in your about me photo.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:28 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Baseballl caps are fine, but they dress down any outfit. I came to suggest a newsboy cap. They look good wearing casual, or fancy.
Just be sure not to get one that fluffs out too much on the sides, or you risk looking like a doofus
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:34 AM on April 15, 2013

I'd go for a simple bucket hat. Light and functional. Apparently they're trending right now, but the classic fisherman version would mean you don't have to worry about that.

They go with anything you're wearing in the summer. And they take a lot of abuse. Easily washable when they get a little grody with brow sweat.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:34 AM on April 15, 2013

The "flat cap" section @Goorin (gnutron's link) features some absolutely fabulous hats and you should buy them all.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:36 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're doing this based purely out of necessity, and you don't want to stand out, then I'm afraid you have to go with a baseball cap. Everything else will just scream "HAT!" in our sad post-JFK hatless society.

No sports affiliation is necessary - you can buy an unbranded one at Target or even a cheapo one at a craft store meant for puffy paint. Or go to the thriftstore and buy a random one.
posted by Think_Long at 7:38 AM on April 15, 2013

You can totally pull off hats with a little more style than the inoffensive baseball cap. I'd go into Target or a mall department store and try on hats. Sure get a baseball cap but try on several other styles, too. Unless you're wearing a Stetson in the middle of DC, nobody is going to look at you and think "Geeze what a douche."
posted by DarlingBri at 7:45 AM on April 15, 2013

That said I may or may not be buying one of those goorin flatcaps .. .
posted by Think_Long at 7:45 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you don't mind a baseball cap, Lidz (and similar baseball cap stores) have blank caps available. They're supposedly for having things stitched onto them by the store, but I just bought them undecorated, in solid, neutral colors. Probably about ten to fifteen bucks apiece. Even if you do go ahead with a very nice, expensive hat, it's good to have a rotation, as hats can, and do, get pretty nasty if worn continuously. I'd get a couple blank baseball caps, then swap them around every couple days.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:46 AM on April 15, 2013

Flat-caps are the "I have style" version of baseball caps, IMHO. My father & brother wear baseball caps - which feels, to me, like an "I don't care about how I dress" thing to wear.

If Kangol flat-caps are good enough for Samuel L. Jackson & LL Cool J...
posted by pammeke at 7:47 AM on April 15, 2013

If you want neutral, wear a baseball cap. It's perfectly acceptable and doesn't show a lack of care about what you wear, just that you wear neutral summer clothing.

Don't go for a fedora or a flat-cap unless they are your "style" and you are comfortable wearing something that screams THIS IS MY STYLE I WEAR FEDORAS.
posted by lydhre at 7:56 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

If sun protection is your concern, you'll want a full brim. Tilley Hats are awesomely functional.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:59 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

What about a non-sports baseball hat? A plain baseball hat?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:02 AM on April 15, 2013

Forget sports - I am sure you will be easily able to procure a cap tat announces your support for a worthy cause or organization, such as the EFF, the Darwin Fish, etc.
posted by bq at 8:03 AM on April 15, 2013

pammeke: " If Kangol flat-caps are good enough for Samuel L. Jackson & LL Cool J..."

On the other hand, there's also Joey Pants. Whichever hat you choose, I suggest always wearing it forward-facing.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:04 AM on April 15, 2013

Are you a person who gets overly hot in the summer? I ask because there are those normal baseball caps or there are the mesh "trucker" hats (examples from first google hit here) that let your head breathe. My dad's own defenses against scalp-burn have receded beyond assistance decades ago, so he's a long-time baseball hat guy. Trucker hats with the mesh backing are essential for him in hot weather.

So, if you tend to get overly warm in hot weather, maybe keep in mind breathability of the hat. So, trucker hats with mesh tops or more loosely woven hats like some of the examples above that vent might be good choices.
posted by jillithd at 8:06 AM on April 15, 2013

IMHO, an alternative to the baseball cap that has just a touch more individuality without screaming I AM HAT PERSON is the basic military/army cap. Khaki will be cooler, temperature wise.
posted by drlith at 8:26 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would recommend your basic fishing cap. These days hats have a way of screaming "trying too hard!" You need a deliberately unpretentious hat to counteract that.

And your instinct to avoid the fedora is spot on. Whatever you are trying to accomplish out in the world, they are guaranteed to overshadow your message.
posted by rocketpup at 8:30 AM on April 15, 2013

If you are wearing a hat just to keep sun off you, you kind of have to go with an all-around brim (instead of a baseball hat's front-only brim).

I have a nice felt Akubra Cattleman hat with a 3-1/4 inch brim all the way around. It took a moment to screw up my courage and wear it the first time, but no one bats an eye, and it keeps the sun off my delicate, northern-European scalp/ears/face.

And if anyone gives you flak for wearing a hat that's more than a boring baseball hat as "trying too hard," give them a long, quiet look and then turn away.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:57 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Flat-caps are the "I have style" version of baseball caps


Baseball caps are the default hat for men these days

I would say, that's younger men, mostly...IMO anyone wearing a baseball cap projects a certain jock-redneck-farmer-sports fan vibe, so this man wouldn't be caught dead wearing one. Besides, they don't cover your ears... for real solar protection, just get a straw hat, or one of those shapeless fishing hats.
posted by Rash at 9:02 AM on April 15, 2013

For God's sake. It's just a hat. Who cares if no-style gimboids are going to think you're the kind of guy who wears a fedora. They'll all be too busy thinking about their skin cancer to care how you look pretty soon.

A baseball cap is a complete chocolate teapot. Unless you are actually out playing sports while you are wearing it, it marks you out as clueless in both form and function. It does nothing to shade your ears, neck and shoulders from the sun. You need a straw fedora from here to September, and it has to have at least a two-inch brim rather than those "stingy" brims that douchebag rock musicians were wearing in the late '00s. Also, make sure it has a tight weave and is not full of stupid holes that let the sun in.
posted by tel3path at 9:11 AM on April 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

At what type of events do you intend wear your hats? Not all hats are appropriate for all ocassions.
posted by mmascolino at 9:53 AM on April 15, 2013

This is not an easy question, it's a real dilemma for a modern gentleman, especially a modern gentleman of the no-hair species. So it is no surprise that there is vast disagreement among the respondents here.

I prefer wearing plain soft cotton baseball caps, of this variety. I do not think it makes me look clueless. It makes me look like I am wearing a low-key comfortable hat that protects my head without being insanely hot. I'm usually wearing jeans and sneakers or boat shoes, with perhaps a windbreaker, plus a short sleeve button-down or a tshirt. If I put a fedora or any kind of straw hat on with what I wear casually around, it would make me look pretentious. If I dressed like Paul F. Tompkins, I would look like a dummy wearing a ball cap. Some other options, like Stetsons or anything else with a wide brim, are almost never a good choice fashionwise, unless you're an actual cowboy, in which case go for it!

In short, wear a hat that matches how you dress as best as you can. Flat brim caps are better for young dudes in v-necks, fedoras work for very well-dressed fashionable skinny guys, and my caps are good for what I'm going for--comfort and nondescript understatement.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:04 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

In short, wear a hat that matches how you dress as best as you can.

This is the key to looking and feeling comfortable in your hat. If the hat doesn't go with the rest of your outfit, it won't matter how cool or stylish the hat is, you will end up looking clueless or pretentious.

Part of properly matching a hat to an outfit is knowing what different hats were designed for. Form should follow function when it comes to men's hats. If the point of the hat is to keep sun off your face, a flat cap with a 1 inch brim is next to useless. They're not summer hats, which is why they're traditionally made of wool or tweed. Kangol flat caps were trendy in 80's hip hop culture, which is why you see LL Cool J and Samuel L. Jackson in them. LL Cool J rocking Kangols doesn't mean it's cool for everyone.

In any usual city setting, that leaves just a few summer hats that are functional and reasonable enough to not look ridiculous or costume-y... baseball caps, army caps, straw fedoras with wider brims. You can't go wrong with baseball or army caps in casual clothing. I disagree that they look childish or rednecky unless they're those godawful flat brim baseball caps or trucker hats. A classic cotton baseball cap without logos is about as safe as you can play it, and I think you're on the right track with the American Apparel cap you linked to, just make sure you curve the brim a bit. Army caps are slightly more style-y though still relatively style neutral as long as they're solid-colored and not camo. Straw fedoras require you to be a bit more hip looking, but they're so ubiquitous nowadays that they're not nearly as much of a statement as they used to be (but cloth fedoras are still Fedora-guy territory). A straw fedora should have plain or subtly striped ribbon trim, no feathers or any weird dangly crap.
posted by keep it under cover at 1:19 PM on April 15, 2013

Flat Caps are great and look stylish without going into TRYINGREALHARD fedora territory. Caveat- I feel like Kangols are their own category, much harder to pull off.

Don't worry about not knowing about the team, if that's your issue with ballcaps. You can just say, "Nah, I'm just from St. Louis" or what have you.

I'd say just go to the mall and try some on at H&M and Urban Outfitters and whatnot, see what you like.
posted by saul wright at 7:32 PM on April 15, 2013

I don't really get all this hate on the standard baseball cap. It's one of the only hat styles that is acceptable on any age/gender/style. If your concern is about not knowing a team, just wear one from your local city. I have literally never had anyone come up to me and question me about my team's lineup or talk strategy with me because I was wearing a baseball cap.

Flat-caps are the "I have style" version of baseball caps

Maybe if you're Samuel L. Jackson or LL Cool J. Otherwise, it's really, really hard to pull off this look if you're under 50 without going full-on hipster (way beyond Apple commercial hipster) and having a handlebar moustache. Usually, they just look terrible.

Much like the fedora, it's a classic look that works well for older men, but has been overdone and overplayed by a particular subset of my generation. If you're over 40-45, it could work. Otherwise, I'd avoid both of these unless they REALLY fit your style. It's really a generational thing.

Depending on your preference for head coverage, I would probably recommend a Military/"Castro" cap for maximum style (but no ear protection) or one of the Tilley style hats (full coverage but you avoid the fisherman/farmer look). Really, it comes down to what works for you. Plenty of people seem to like the flat cap or fisherman/straw hat look, so if that's what you end up loving, then go for it.
posted by Vonnegut27 at 10:51 AM on April 16, 2013

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