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It was the best of hats and the worst of hats. Last year I bought a classic Panama straw hat with a masculine firm yet delicate brim at Antica Cappelleria Troncarelli in Rome. It fit like a glove (or rather a hat) – looked and felt sublime. It was the perfect chapeau. For the duration of the 2017 SVA Summer typographic workshop in Rome I proudly wore it and then upon returning to New York, it topped off my summer and early fall couture. I wrote a story extolling its stunningly smart shape and empowering presence, which garnered positive “nice hat” responses from street people and passersby (read here).
Then one day, the unthinkable occurred. That once proud crown and brim, which justified the posh 140 Euro price, went inexplicably limp. As though its virility had simply been drained, it had come to an abrupt end. What could I do? If only there were Viagra for hats . . . Well, there is not. And I refused to re-block a straw hat!
I continued to wear it, sagging though it was, but the widespread adulation from friends and strangers had ceased. I even sensed their contempt. When I could no longer stand the shame, I returned to Rome and immediately ran to Antica Cappelleria Troncarelli. Upon entering the small, homey shop, it was as though the newer hats were mockingly turning up their brims.
Original on left, Stetson on right (or is it the other way around)?
I tried on a few different brands, all Panamas, with the same delicate material yet I knew the woven straw would eventually shift shape. Then I saw, touched and tried on a similar but decidedly sturdier one — a Stetson. It fit just right and felt like it would last. But it was a Stetson! My father, President Johnson, John Wayne all wore Stetsons. I hesitated, pondered the symbolic implications yet finally gave way to pragmatism.
This hat, I fervently believe, will last. This hat and I were meant to be one. Moreover, it was only 65 Euro, and although the exchange rate was 15% higher than in 2017, I came out ahead.