Adventures in hat collecting

For a good majority of my childhood, whenever my family went anywhere on vacation, as a souvenir, I would ask for a T-shirt.
This is a pretty normal thing to do, and God knows that there are always plenty of shirts to choose from wherever you go, but the problem I started to run into was that I was quickly growing out of the shirts that I wanted to wear so badly. Especially during elementary school, there would be a period of about a year where I could wear the shirts that I begged my parents for and they spent good money on, and then it was useless.
I don’t remember exactly when I decided that I wanted to start getting something different to remember my various trips by, but at some point I decided that I was going to start collecting hats.
My main idea behind this was purely utilitarian. If I wanted to be able to keep on enjoying the keepsakes that I acquired throughout my travels, said keepsakes were going to have to be something that I could not grow out of. Hats were the logical answer to this problem. I initially started only getting baseball caps, as they were normally one size fits all and all I had to do to make it fit on my tiny head was really cinch it down, but soon, I decided I would start branching out.
I bought one of my favorite hats during a field trip to the Tom Ridge Environmental Center here in Erie when I was still in elementary school or middle school. It is a bucket hat with a map of Presque Isle on the front. I remember getting teased mercilessly for choosing that of all hats, but I joked that when everyone else got lost in the backwoods, I would have my map to lead me back to the bus.
I have no real idea why I love that hat so much, but I suspect it has something to do with the “dadness” of it. Essentially, if I can picture myself wearing a hat while mowing the lawn on a hot summer day while jamming out to Phil Collins and wearing white leather Nikes, it’s a great hat. I’ve kept that kind of aesthetic with me to this day in fact.
My all time favorite hat is an Erie Otters fitted cap that over the years has been molded perfectly around my head. There is no other hat that fits just like it and when I thought I lost it over this past summer, I was absolutely heartbroken. Luckily, I found it and all was right with the world, but I could not replace that hat in a million years.
Other than just getting hats when I travel, I have several other additions to the collection that bring me a great amount of joy. Paramount among these miscellaneous hats is my crushable wool Indiana Jones fedora. I bought it from Amazon my freshman year of high school and it cost around $40 at the time. Considering I bought that along with a matching satchel to go with it, I dropped a good chunk of change that day, but I have taken that hat with me on many adventures, and I have to say, it hasn’t let me down yet.
The amount of times I’ve drowned that thing in waterproofing spray and subsequently doused it in rain water and mud are too high to count accurately at this point, but that thing has held up like a champ.
I have no idea how many hats I have in my collection at this point, but I do know that they all take up two full 18 gallon storage bins when they are all compacted. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with any kind of collection, and considering that my largest collection also serves a functional purpose, I am very proud of the amount of caps that I have amassed over the years.
Whether I want to feel like an archaeologist, or I am having a bad hair day, I can count on my hats to keep my head covered and bring a smile to my face.

BENJAMIN HAYLETT
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