If the hat fits, wear it and relax

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - ROB DUN­LOP

Base­ball cap, beanie, Akubra, flat cap, fe­dora and then Panama. That might seem a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion of ageap­pro­pri­ate head­wear for men, but de­pend­ing on con­fi­dence lev­els, ge­og­ra­phy, pro­fes­sion, peer groups, so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus and fash­ion sen­si­bil­i­ties, you could be for­given for wear­ing any of these, at any stage of your life.

With such con­tra­dic­tory in­flu­ences, it’s no won­der many of us need to be at least 1000km from home be­fore we muster the courage to don head­wear, let alone em­brace a change of style. On over­seas hol­i­days, it’s easy to flirt with the new and fas­ci­nat­ing. Per­haps a beret, som­brero, fez, Greek fish­er­man’s cap, tam o’ shanter, chullo or con­i­cal bam­boo hat. At home, with our typ­i­cal beach and gar­den va­ri­eties, we ex­pect to look daggy, pro­vided we’re not too self-con­scious. But what hap­pens if we start to over­think our head­wear and take it too se­ri­ously?

I find out when I head to Hawaii. It’s time to ditch my base­ball cap, a one-size-fits-all af­fair that ac­tu­ally fits and which I have worn for the past seven years. In Hawaii, it’s al­ready the last night of a too-short so­journ. The sun is set­ting, palms are rustling, ukule­les are play­ing, glasses clink­ing in beach­side bars, the air is sweetly per­fumed, and I’m still look­ing for hats along Kalakaua Av­enue, the famed shop­ping strip par­al­lel to Waikiki Beach.

So far the process has been bru­tal, the scru­tiny too hon­est. There is no hid­ing the mi­cro-ex­pres­sions of smooth-faced staff — look­ing ridicu­lously good in ma­ture-style hats — who move their eyes in ways that tell me yet an­other style isn’t quite work­ing.

But sales­man Aric at Chapel Hats is de­ter­mined to find one to suit me. This is my fourth store. I’ve vis­ited the leg­endary Newt in The Royal Hawai­ian’s gar­den ar­cade to pe­ruse hand­made Pana­mas from the an­cient hill­town of Mon­te­cristi, Ecuador. Spooked by pres­tige and prices,

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