These days hats are no longer just for keeping the head warm on those extra chilly days, or for blocking out the sun when it’s beating UV rays down on us.  Just like a pair of shoes, or a hot bag, the hat has become a fashion accessory—an extension of one’s style.  But unlike shoes and bags, hats can be funny or clever, like t-shirts, except less obnoxious when they go for clever.

A hat from Shibuya, Japan spotted on Mission Street

A hat from Shibuya, Japan spotted on Mission Street

One thing that I love about Mission District fashion is the attitude that anyone should be able to wear what they want and be comfortable.  I could tell that this sentiment is shared when it comes to dressing the head too.  Anyone can pull off an “SF” baseball fitted, and trust me I’m not criticizing anyone who does, but the different hats that I saw around the neighborhood put any plain fitted to shame.  One gentleman on Mission Street was wearing a huge cowboy hat with colorful feathers exploding into a shape on the left side.  Another gentleman ate at Jarritos with a friend, wearing a cool simple Michael Jackson “Billy Jean” reminiscent derby.

But my favorite was Krystal Peoples’ cool little fedora—mainly because it had a story to tell.  Her friend who runs a city agricultural program bought a rooster for her hen house.  The next morning she discovered that he had plucked all the feathers from her hens’ heads.  She quickly turned the rooster into a chicken pot pie, and Krystal asked for some of his feathers for her hat.  No artificial detailing for this lady.

I keep a collection of hats for when I want to spice things up.  I remember when trucker hats were such a huge trend.  Instead of buying them I would go to fairs at my college and get the promotional hats being distributed (for free) for various campus organizations.  It wasn’t rare to see me in a Brandeis Belly Dancing Club trucker hat.  I gave in to the trend.  Judah Friedlander, who plays Frank on NBC’s 30 Rock sports a different trucker hat in almost every segment—I always look forward to his quirky slogans.

I stayed away from the Von Dutch hat trend from 2003-2004 simply because I was anti-overpaying (from $45-$125) for a hat simply because Ashton Kutcher and Justin Timberlake wore it.  And I get bored of the crocheted beret trend that the girls have been wearing for the past few years now.

My Urban Outfitters Panama hat

My Urban Outfitters Panama hat

Mr. Pickles in a cowboy hat

Mr. Pickles sandwich slinging in a sombrero

But one of my favorite hat trends that will never get old or annoy me is the summertime Panama hat.  Originally from Ecuador, the hat is made from leaves of the toquilla straw plant.  There are many stories regarding how the hat came to be called Panama; one attributing the name to the wear of the hat by construction workers of the Panama Canal, because of its protective shell.  I bought a sleek Marc Jacobs version for a friend summer 2008, and this past summer got myself a unique version from Urban Outfitters.  It always solicits a number of compliments.  What can I say?  The same way a goofy hat will make you look like a clown, a nice hat will never go unnoticed.  Even Mr. Pickles, the mascot for my favorite sandwich shop on 20th Street, sports a clean cocked derby.  If he can pull it off, everyone else should feel free to take the plunge.