The dead hats society

The dead hats society

by Janice Nigro

I wasn’t one for wearing hats until one day at a meeting in San Diego for cancer research. It was terribly warm and very sunny (I was living on the foggy side of San Francisco), and I thought, I need a hat.

It was easy to find a hat in San Diego. Even one that was fashionable as well as functional. This hat was so fashionable that a French guy in Tahiti who said nothing else to me for three days told me that it was a great hat. And a dive guide in Bonaire once said,”I might forget you, but not that hat.”

It was not a big hat. Something collapsible that I could throw in a bag but use especially on my short trips on the boat tenders while traveling to dive sites. The sun is so hot and direct in some of the tropical regions typical for diving.

I loved that hat. I still have that hat although I almost lost it once on a bus in Orlando of all places. But that was in the beginning when I wasn’t used to wearing a hat.

If you wear a hat every day, what you will notice is how little time it takes before that hat that was once navy blue, for example, begins to look gray. I think all hats, regardless of color to begin with, eventually become gray-ish after time. It impresses upon you just how much sun you get every day without even feeling it.

That hat has become a dead hat, however. At some point, my mother started to suggest that I needed a new hat. While I knew she was right, I wasn’t about to give up that hat. That hat had been with me around the world. I took it to Norway for my seven-year sabbatical and back. I took it to Indonesia, Palau, French Polynesia, Bonaire, and countless other pieces of paradise around the world.

It’s still with me. But now it is second to my new first dead hat. I visited some friends in Tasmania for Christmas three years ago. There everyone wears a hat. It’s the law for children under a certain age, probably thanks to the genetics of the population that settled there and the diminishing ozone layer. So hats not surprisingly are everywhere. Cool hats.

I went into a ranger station to get some hiking maps with my friends and came out with my second most fabulous and fashionable sun hat. This one was even more fashionable than the first, but still very functional. Everywhere I go, people tell me they love my hat. There goes Janice again traveling in that hat.

It has been three years on my head two of which have been in southern California and a half year in Phoenix-in summer-mixed in with all of the other places I have visited-Italy, Indonesia, Sicily, Capri, and everywhere in Hermosa Beach. The Tasmanian hat has reached that point of being a so-called dead hat. When my mother said something to me about replacing it, a friend of hers told her not to get her hopes up. Since it came from Tasmania, it didn’t seem as if that would happen any time soon.

The hat is easily washable so that it pops back into its stylish shape immediately following a round in the washing machine. At this point in time though, the Tasmanian hat truly has turned gray. I have been taking both hats with me on diving trips, one for the tenders and one for land use, but I am no longer sure it makes a difference.

I can’t imagine giving up the hat. I think locally people easily recognize me because of the hat. They might not remember my name, but they remember me, the woman at the farmers market with the hat!

I never thought much about people and their hats. Except for the British, but these are not real hats. Recently my sister was showing a photo of her husband fishing in Belize. She made a remark about the hat he was wearing in the photo-something to the effect that the hat had seen better days. I laughed though; he too has a dead hat! I understood, he probably wasn’t about to give it up.

It’s difficult to give up a hat when it’s been everywhere with you. This is the essence of the hat (or anything else you have to have with you on trips especially). It’s after all when the adventure begins, putting on the hat.

Do you have a dead hat?

©Janice Marie Nigro/


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