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The kids show about people flying around in hats, foiling the nasty plans of Charles Nelson Reilly (of Match Game — the original — fame), inexplicably cast as a villain. From the brilliant minds of Sid and Marty Krofft — the weird geniuses that also brought us Land of the Lost and Sigmund the Sea Monster.
Don’t remember much of those either? Don’t blame ya. Just weird nonsense. But one thing you better remember: GRAB YOUR HAT ON THE WAY OUT THE DOOR. Or Mom will be mad!
Mom’s Last Shout
“Don’t forget your hat! It’s freezing out and you’ll catch your cold!”
That’s the way I remember it, anyway.
Dear ol’ Mom had one of the most shrill voices in the neighborhood — the kind that could peel the bark off a dog, as they say. I did almost anything to avoid hearing it. It was pretty much the only thing I feared.
True dialogue with my vice-principal:
“You are going to face detention.”
“Bring it on.”
“You might even get suspended for this behavior, young man!”
“Good. I need some time off from this place.”
“Fine. Then I suppose we have no choice but to call your mother…”
“Whoa–whoa… hang on! Let’s not go CRAZY here!”
Anything but that voice! Please! I watched my father shrink a foot whenever my mother raised her tone.
Of course, if I spoke up even a quarter of a decibel, it was time for the WOODEN SPOON (oldsters know what I mean)!
So when Mom yelled at me to not forget my hat when going out to play, that voice of hers drilled into me the need to grab that ridiculous knit cap with the poof ball on top every time I left the house — under the pain of hearing that voice again if she caught me without it.
But Mom was right to be concerned for me hat-less, even if she went about caring in the most excruciatingly piercing manner. A lot of heat escapes our bodies through our extremities — fingers and toes — but nowhere as much as through our heads. Like it or not, the only way to prevent this is to PUT A LID ON IT.
Therefore, when it comes to mens winter work hats, you better pick a good one: A hat needs to both function properly for the purpose of keeping us warm, and it needs to fit with the appearance requirements of the job site.
Sometimes, however, hats do even more than that for us when we’re at work…
Remember in my last article how I explained that your outerwear can create a signature look for yourself — one that stands out to your co-workers?
Well, the hat has an even more profound effect on others in the recognition/visual association department.
Once, a hat actually SAVED MY JOB!
I was a young lad, barely 20 and living on my own in the Pocono Mountains. This was back in the late Eighties, when the region was just one big glorified truck stop, peppered with some cheesy hot tub resorts. That being the case, I worked wherever I could find it, which meant at one of those “mirrors on the ceiling” places. The pay was terrible, so I needed a few side jobs to make ends meet. One of those jobs involved the other main component to the local landscape: trucks.
Namely, at a shipping/receiving depot. I worked there during the earliest hours of the morning, every Saturday. My job was to clean the offices, break rooms, restrooms, and the front aisles of the warehouse. The faster I worked, the more I made per hour (since I was making sixty bucks each week, regardless… might as well earn it in as little time as possible).
There were no bosses to tell me what to do, as I was a private sub-contractor, and all the managers had gone home for the evening. This seemed like a great arrangement to a fiercely independent punk like myself.
There was just one drawback: No bosses on sight meant there was no one to verify I ever showed up and did the work I was being paid for. But the fact the place was clean was proof enough, right?
Whenever that buzzer went off and the yard jockeys came in from the slushy slop they had just trudged through, from the receiving docks to the break rooms, they tracked in muddy foot prints and oil slicks wherever they went. Not even the freshly-vacuumed offices were safe.
By the time I was done, it looked like I had never been there at all. No sense of satisfaction for a job well done there!
This was why some managers began to suspect all I was doing was changing garbage can liners. They told the guy who hired me, and he tasked me with somehow making my presence better known or I would lose my job. This might not seem worth it for just sixty smackers, but back then, even twenty dollars went a long way for a kid living off of free resort pizza leftovers and ramen noodles.
Striking up conversations with the surly yard jockeys and forklift drivers seemed to daunting a task. I needed a visual aid.
That’s when the idea struck me: My dad had been in the navy back in WW II, and I had his old, white sailor’s cap with me. It didn’t fit, so I most kept it on display at a jaunty angle on my desk lamp at home. No matter; I needed to be seen, and this would do the trick.
Perched atop my prematurely-balding dome and bouncing through the air over six feet up, Dad’s hat receiving quick notice from the night shift, and I was soon greeted with a chorus of “Hey, Gilligan!”s every Saturday morning. Now when the managers would ask if anyone had seen the cleaner kid, the workers had a definite response: “Yeah, Gilligan was here. We saw that white hat roamin’ round while he swept an’ vacuumed.”
My employment was rescued — at least for another six months, before I moved on to better things.
This goes to prove that a hat can do so much for us if we choose the right one to wear to work. So let’s get down to the choosing then, shall we?
Knit Caps and Beanies
As far as what hat to wear as your winter work armor helmet, it all comes down to 5 things:
- How cold is it outside?
- Will you be doing work that requires your face to be up close to objects?
- Is it WINDY?
- Is it precipitating?
- How tight do you prefer the fit of your hat?
These are the points that should factor into your hat choice for the day. Most of this is just based on RWI (Real World Intelligence — my substitute term for the less-accurate “common sense”)… like considering the weather and the feel. Hoodies help out under certain conditions — like if it’s windy — or even if it’s raining, if the hoodie is made from water repellent material, like nylon or certain treated polyester blends.
But what about point # 2?
That is obviously when a brimmed hat would be less than ideal. Not all of us have the luxury of knowing what work is in store for us for the day, cooked up by bosses who don’t fret over such issues while cozied up to their computers in their warm, dry offices. It is therefore my recommendation to avoid brims altogether if you’ve got a job that revolves around a lot of lifting — such as furniture and appliance delivery people, or even mechanics that work outside or in cold garages.
Knit caps are the most versatile choice. Cotton, wool, poly-blends — they’re all fine. Some even come with built-in sweat bands, which is helpful if you’re stuck inside a bit longer than planned (and still never took off your hat), or your toiling caused you to work up a sweat in spite of the frigid temps (like every time I bring in firewood by the wheelbarrow).
If they don’t have lining, no problem: if you don’t want to keep whipping the darn thing on and off all the time — and looking for which pocket to stuff it in — then just do like I do and flip up the edges on the sides, or roll it up a little higher off your brow and ears. Makes a world of difference when trying to cool down. Plus it lets you keep a bit of a BA dock-worker look. Manly men! Rumph-rumph-rumph!
As for the beanie, they’re quite popular with the younger dudes, I’ve noticed, and come in a variety of shapes besides your tried-and-true DOME. My dome has a lot of chrome, so beanies tend to slide up and make me look more like a bullet-head than normal, which I assume is objectively terrifying to the average on-looker.
“Hey! Over there! It’s a six foot roll-on!”
That joke killed back in the Nineties. Do they even have roll-on antiperspirants anymore? Dang, I’m old.
One other variation on this beanie concept is the balaclava.
You know — this:
Sorry! Didn’t mean to scare ya!
Pretty versatile piece of headwear, right there. It can we wore as a beanie (albeit a weird, lumpy one), as a face mask only, or as a scarf/neck gaiter. Great for when you don’t want your cheeks and nose frozen off while using the snow blower in single digit weather. Be sure to get one with breathing perforations like I did — helps a lot when you’re really exerting yourself. Definitely a piece of “extreme gear,” but those of us who have needed them and used them know their great value.
Those goggle were from a German ski patrolman in the Sixties, by the way. Looks like I should be chasing James Bond down the slopes with an AK-47 or something, right? Just one of the cool little ‘finds’ that can be found in the “Military Surplus” section of the Sportsman’s Guide website or catalog.
The “Guide” is also a great place to find any of these type of hats, as is Carhartt.
Brimming Over with Mens Winter Work Hats
Finally, there are the hats with brims.
Ball caps might work under hoodies, but better to find ones that are lined with insulation.
There’s also the “Stormy Kromer” option, where you turn the cap into one with ear flaps.
Yeah, I know — they look kinda silly. But it’s all hoots & hollers until your ears freeze off with frostbite, yeah?
Every third working dude living on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan — “Yoopers,” they’re called — wears a hat like this in the winter. Safety in numbers: no one’s gonna call you out for looking foolish if most everybody looks the same. Go, peer pressure! As long as the noggin is protected.
There’s also quite a few fedoras on the market with built-in warm features, usually with a shorter brim (2 1/2 inches or less). I was fortunate enough to find one that’s actually foldable so you can roll it up and tuck it away. It also is made of moisture-repelling wool (with a sweatband, so no itchies) and comes with ear flaps that pull down from the inside. Put out there by Duluth Trading Company. I love the thing!
Finally, there the American original: the Cowboy hat.
Whether made from wool felt or genuine leather, this ultra-cool staple of the rugged outdoor experience has shielded ranchers and pioneers from the elements for generations. Stetson is one of the top brands out there, and the prices for their high-quality version of the ultimate brimmed hat range from the very affordable to the “gotta sell the boat to swing this one.”
Dorfman Pacific put out some good ones, too, and reasonably priced. Got mine from them at Tractor Supply Company. Flex sweatband keeps it on my head in a high wind, and it couldn’t care less whether it’s snowing or raining. No ear warmers, though. Great for everyday but the coldest ones. And it’s nice to get compliments, which this hat provides in abundance.
Well, there ya go, fellas — everything you need to know about putting together your winter work suit of armor. Keep your closets stocked with a variety of items from EACH CATEGORY, and you’ll be ready for just about any snowball Old Man Winter or Jack Frost lob your way.
Just keep away from that Charles Nelson Reilly character… he’s a total nut job!
Maybe Mom’s voice will scare him off!
Let me know what sits atop your melon! Better yet: I’ve told you one of MY hat tales… let’s hear one of yours!
Go ahead and leave some comments — I’ll be sure to reply.
When we meet here again, it will be a little warmer out (hopefully). Either way, time to THINK SPRING and start looking at some warmer weather work clothing ideas. Which one will be first? Only one way to find out!