There I was, standing in the Goorin Bros. hat store in Uptown Minneapolis, trying on every kind of hat you can think of. If you haven’t been to Goorin, you should try it out. The employees, wearing hats of their own, encourage patrons in the trying on of many different styles, from flatcap to cadet to bowlers to… fedoras.
“Here,” the employee said to me, “try this one out.” There he was, holding in his hand a black fedora. Nothing fancy, just a simple short “brimmed hat with a pinched crown that effortlessly elevates any outfit,” so their website says. But I knew it was a trick, because I am certainly not qualified to don such a piece, and I think the employee knew that too. But I caved under social awkwardness and my inability to say no.
“Uh, OK,” I said timidly.
What I knew is this: that not everyone can wear a fedora. There are very specific rules for this sort of thing and I was far from following these rules.
As I placed the hat ever so gently atop my head, I turned toward the mirror. What I saw in that reflection was a disgrace. Pure blasphemy. I turned to the Goorin Bros employee with a guilty look. The look on his face said everything that I already knew, but he spoke anyway, “Oh… yeah… umm… Maybe this one isn’t for you.” He was nervous now and began scrambling for another hat, “here, try this one.” In his hand was a white women’s floppy hat, designed for a day at beach. I don’t even think he realized it. “Anything to get that fedora off of him,” he probably thought. The floppy hat would have paired nicely with a bikini or a sundress.
What this particular employee (bless his heart) didn’t realize is that there are three distinct rules for a man to get away with wearing a fedora. The way the system works is: you don’t have to follow all three rules, but you must follow at least one in order to wear this type of hat without looking like an idiot. If you don’t follow at least one, then you do not look good in a fedora, got it?
I have tested these rules for many years and have yet to be proven wrong. If you disagree, then please show me otherwise.
Rule #1: You must be playing an instrument, preferably a guitar
Guys who hold a guitar can get away with almost anything. No, I didn’t say guys who play guitar – they just need to be holding one. These guys can tout crazy hair, extra tight jeans, and loose fitting jewelery and somehow it all looks acceptable. But their signature piece that they can flaunt with such debonairity, is the fedora.
Rule #2: You must have some sort of facial hair
It doesn’t matter if it’s a full beard, or some simple chin fur, or, if you’re feeling daring, maybe it’s a full-on Tom Sellek mustache, but a guy has to have a little bit of facial hair if he wants to look good in a fedora (or, as I mentioned, he could also be holding a guitar).
I tested this many times. On vacations, with a little bit of stubble, I’ve cautiously placed a stray fedora on my head, peeked into a nearby mirror and… woah! I actually looked halfway decent. It’s amazing what a little chin music can do for a guy, after all facial hair is a man’s makeup. And without that makeup, we simply can’t pull off the illustrious fedora cap.
Rule #3: You must have some ethnicity other than white
This might seem like an outlandish thing to say, but here it is. In America, white males get the “upper hand” or possible special advantages on a lot of things. Just look at our government:
- 71 percent of elected officials are men, 90 percent are white.
- White men are 31 percent of the U.S. population but hold 65 percent of all elected offices.
- White men have eight times as much political power as women of color.
(My source is a Washington Post article. Click here to read.)
I could go on about arguments that white men are paid the highest, get into the best schools and get the best jobs, but really none of this is the point, and I’m not trying to make any sort of a political statement in the least. For every argument there are two sides, and I’ve only given you one here. What I am trying to do is teach you about these important fedora rules.
The point is, what white males definitely do not have going for them is looking good in fedoras. In fact, I believe that if you’re not playing an instrument, you don’t have facial hair, and you are white, then you probably look utterly terrible in a fedora.
However, if you have a nice pigment to your skin, then you are in luck (blessed really) because you can flaunt a fedora in the streets with the secure knowledge that you probably look rather suave.
The future of fedora ownership for Chris
For quite some time now I have been wanting to buy a nice brimmed hat. I’ve tried on hundreds and spent hours contemplating the amazing possibilities of manhood I could achieve with a good brimmed piece atop my head on a cold winter day. Or a hot summer day, whatever. I just want to look and feel like I’m in the Roaring 20’s.
For now though, I can’t check any of the three boxes, so a fedora is out of the question. Maybe some day I will take up guitar, grow a beard, or… Okay, I really only have a two-thirds shot at making this happen.
Please remember these rules. It’s a nasty world out there full of hat villains and style criminals.