My black hat is my crown
Symbolizing my sound.
Symbolizing we don't play around.
Lyrics by Run-D.M.C.; Published by Profile Records Inc.
At a moment in fashion history when the fate of men's hats seems to be hanging in the balance, Run-D.M.C., a rapping rock group, has taken a stand. As their lyrics and the fact that all three musicians wear and collect hats would suggest, they are doing their part to bring about a major headgear revival. And they are not alone.
Let fashion dictates try and make men's hats obsolete, as they have tried in recent years. Members of Run-D.M.C. want to be counted among those men who do not feel quite complete without a hat. Whether for luck, or attention, or to set a mood or simply keep their heads warm, there are plenty of other men too who collect and wear hats no matter what the fashion.
Jason Mizell of the rock group reports that he has about 20 styles arranged on his bedroom wall "like posters," and he says he will always wear them. He and his group even produce their own line of velours and soft tweeds to sell to fans during concert tours.
Theirs are more flamboyant than most hats making headwear news this spring. But the fact that any styles at all are making news is enough to give loyalists hope that hats are on their way back to the top.
Among collectors, styles run the gamut, and even the most outlandish hats or caps are likely to be worn--and some worn a lot.
Tommy Lasorda has a gift certificate good for a free gall bladder operation. He traded a Dodger cap for it. He says he agreed to the deal--even though he doesn't need the surgery--because he understands why the doctor had to have the hat.
"Put on a certain hat and a transformation occurs," Lasorda explains.
Lasorda goes through at least three Dodgers caps a season, saves his lucky cap "for when the going gets tough" and keeps a supply of "civilian" tweeds and fedoras for the off-season.
Now consider Larry Hagman. While he has his custom-made cowboy hats for "Dallas," he also owns about 1,000 others, including a baseball cap with a built-in battery-operated fan and another with a raccoon--a whole raccoon. He says his disapproving wife has tossed out at least 500 others from his "gag" collection.
Hagman doesn't wear his hats to be in fashion. He wears them to stand out in a crowd. "People look at you in a hat," he says. "You get reactions."
He considers his a museum-quality collection, and he plans to display part of it in custom-made end tables shaped like large, glass cubes. His vintage military and law-enforcement helmets will go inside.
Marshall Goldberg is a hat-wearing Capitol Hill lawyer-turned-television scriptwriter. He says: "I think of a hat as costume. Wearing one is like acting, in the sense that all the world's a stage."
He admits it takes guts to walk around in one of his wide-brim felt hats from the 1930s, even though it helps transport him to an era he wishes he had known firsthand.
"People judge you harshly; it's like driving a big car," he says. "You have to overcome their judgment or you'll never wear a hat."
In case you're wondering what you would be missing, Goldberg says: "Put on a hat and you're having fun without depending on anybody else to approve or disapprove."
Some men have fish stories; Jeff Melvoin has fish hats. "Half the fun of fishing is what one wears while fishing," he says.
He keeps a selection of styles in his office near the set of "Hill Street Blues," where he is a co-executive producer. But when he takes off for Idaho's trout streams, he has only his L. L. Bean Mouse River hat with him. It is shaped like a fedora, but made of beaver pelts.
"Every fisherman has his prize hat," Melvoin explains. "It's the one that got its crown crushed on the Snake River when you had a five-pound fish on the line, then got dented and stained up in Michigan on some other fishing trip. It's the hat you'd risk life and limb to rescue if it ever blew off."
He started his 35-piece hat collection as a junior in high school when "Hang 'em High" Clint Eastwood was his hero. The all-leather cowboy style Melvoin found in a Big Sur shop reminded him of the one Eastwood wore for his Westerns. Whatever may become of the others, Melvoin says, he plans to keep his first.
"Hats like that represent experiences and chapters of my life," he says. "I'd find it difficult to part with it."
Melvoin wears the baseball cap of his hometown team--the Chicago Cubs--when he goes out of doors.
Other collectors, Al Pick among them, don't have such an easy time of it. Few of Pick's hats are fit to wear in public, but that is part of what he likes about them. "It's the silliness of them that appeals to me," says the Los Angeles lawyer.