I know you have more important questions, but I’ve seen pictures of you wearing a cowboy hat and want to ask if you think it’s stupid for me to wear one? My brother says I will look stupid.
Your brother doesn’t love the Lord.
I am a Resistol hat man myself. And it is my firmly held opinion that we need more kids in this world wearing behemoth headgear and dressing up like Willie Hugh Nelson.
Our nation’s forebears wore broad-brimmed, high-crowned hats; from the Pilgrim days to Burt Reynolds. Even the pope has his own enormous hat. So why shouldn’t you?
Take me. I’m no cowboy. Not even close. I am what you’d call a middle-aged homeowner with a 30-year-fixed mortgage. I don’t own a horse or live on a ranch, although my wife says my truck smells like a substance common to barnyards. But none of this matters because the main reason I wear a cowboy hat is this:
For years I worked on construction and landscaping crews. We baked out in the sun all day, and ball caps didn’t cut it. In Florida, baseball hats are about as useful as ejection seats in a helicopter.
With a standard ball cap your neck and lower face remain exposed. And speaking as a card-carrying fair-skinned redhead who can develop third-degree sunburns in a movie theater, I need total coverage.
The second reason I wear the big hat is because I come from rural people, cattle people, livestock auctioneers, VFW bingo champions, and septic-tank installation specialists. These men wore tall hats with wide brims, and there was nothing unusual about it.
I received my first cattleman’s hat when I was very young and I never took it off. I have early photographs of myself wearing a diaper, sucking my thumb, and sporting a Resistol hat for my mother’s Bible study group. The church ladies said I was the cutest 26-year-old they’d ever seen.
But enough about me. Let’s talk about why you need a cowboy hat:
For starters, you’re American. The United States has approximately 9.5 million horses, which is exponentially more than any other country. So technically, this makes you a horse guy.
And bonus, Florida ranks third for having the most horses in the nation. If you don’t believe me, just visit Ocala; they ride horses to the DMV.
Also, you come from a society that currently and historically produces more commercial beef than any other country, so in a way you’re also a cowperson.
Simply put, you hail from a nation that was built by people on horseback, and our ancestors didn’t wear propeller beanies.
Certainly, some narrow-minded people might tell you that wearing a cattleman’s hat in public looks out of place, but these are mostly youngish city dwellers who—hard as this is to believe—have never even seen a Winston Cup Series.
Still, try to remember, not everyone is a towny. Some of us come from families who actually had dinner-time conversations that involved topics like manure spreaders, or the issue of cannibalism among poultry.
And we’re not alone. In the U.S. right now one out of every five people are from rural areas.
Believe me, people still wear cowboy hats non-ironically. I have friends who are drywallers, lawyers, pipe fitters, peace officers, neurosurgeons, roofers, respiratory therapists, mechanics, college baseball players, university professors, and beer-joint musicians, and they all wear taco-shells.
In our part of the world some law enforcement officials still wear cattleman’s hats with their uniforms. Over in Clay County, Florida, for instance, the sheriff’s department had a voluntary uniform policy wherein officials wore cowboy hats.
And before you write off Clay County as some backwoods county, Clay County also happens to have Florida’s only current female sheriff: Michelle Cook. So put that in your Stetson and twirl it.
Personally, in my travels as a writer I have proudly worn my Resistol 4-Star Genuine Shantung hat in nearly every state, and in countless airports. I’ve donned my headwear in major cities like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Detroit.
And do you know the main thing I’ve learned in these big-city exploits? Muggers will assault you no matter what’s on your head.
But my most fun hat story took place a few years ago when I wore my hat to New York City for an author event. As soon as I deboarded my plane in LaGuardia Airport, I was swarmed by a gaggle of kids wearing blue shirts, jeans, and ropers. They all seemed so excited.
The kids were representing the National Future Farmers of America. We all got our pictures made together. Every child wore a ten-gallon lid that was nine times the size of his or her head.
One overjoyed kid shook my hand and said, “Are you a big-time country music star?”
“No,” I said. “Sorry.”
He let go of my hand. “Well, what are you?”
They avoided eye contact with me after that.
So you don’t need anyone’s permission to be yourself. What you need is bravery. It takes bravery to be who you are in this world.
Sure, a four-inch brimmed buckaroo might feel awkward if you’re not used to it. But keep reminding yourself that you’re an American kid. You come from a culture of men and women who overcame insurmountable odds, dire circumstances, global wars, and pandemics, and still managed to give the world the sacred gift of Willie Nelson.
So write me back and send me your address and hat size, hoss.