Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
We all know a Hat Girl. Someone beautiful and effortless, with the face and attitude and personal style required to pull off that most elusive of accessories: the hat. Sometimes you hate them, sometimes you love them, sometimes you just want to be them. It’s chicken or egg — whether Hat Girls have such supreme confidence because of their hats, or whether that confidence is what draws them to hats in the first place.
The only way to find out is to go to the source — in this case, my friend Steph. She is a documentary filmmaker, a folk musician, and the kindest, most thoughtful Hat Girl I have ever met.
Alanna: Hi Steph! We have been pals for about two years now, and for that entire time I've admired your ability to pull off hats. I myself am not a Hat Girl; I'll wear beanies out of necessity, but whenever I try for something more ambitious (say, a beret, or anything made of felt) I wind up looking like I'm playing dress up.
Not you, though — you look somehow both elegant and casual, but not intimidating. It's so impressive! I'd love to hear about your life as a Hat Girl, so that maybe we non-Hat Girls can learn from your example.
So first of all, when did you first realize you loved hats? And even more importantly, when did you realize you actually looked good in them?
Steph: I remember the first hat I was attached to: a floppy straw number with a plastic sunflower on it. I think I bought it at Walmart. I was 12, and perhaps like most pre-teens, I was, to put it lightly, struggling to define my personal style. I had glasses, braces, oversized L.L.Bean T-shirts with cats on them, baggy jean shorts, and it would be another year or so before I accepted I had to wear a bra. Nothing fit right.
But then I found that hat! It was mine, and I thought I looked good in it. The pictures remind me that I wore it all summer, my face speckled with sunlight that shone through the brim's artificial fibers.
Toward the end of summer, however, my more fashionable sister revealed that the hat offended her because it was very ugly. On a road trip back from historic Plymouth Village, she took the sunflower off of it and threw it out the car window. (This was, I believe, revenge for the time I did the same to her favorite hairbrush...?)
Point being, I think that's when I knew.
Alanna: How has your hat style evolved over time?
Steph: After college, I abandoned the messenger cap for the fedora, which I maintain was a step in the right direction. I spent the last few years working on a documentary about Jackie Robinson, and partially as a result of screening many hours of vintage game footage, I have taken to wearing baseball caps.
Hats can really make a "look," more easily perhaps than other accessories. Ball caps and beanies go with my "generic documentary filmmaker" daytime look; fedoras and cowboy hats make for an easy transition to my banjo-playing "prospector chic" mood.
Alanna: Do you have particular favorite hats, or styles you really hate? Where do you find them?
Steph: They find me. Or I buy them (RIP, the Barneys Co-op Warehouse Sale). I think earmuffs are silly.
Alanna: What advice would you give someone looking to become a Hat Girl, or even just a casual dabbler?
Steph: Hats make you feel like you're playing dress up in everyday life — have fun! Also, hats make good signature accessories and come in handy if you're in a situation when you're meeting a lot of people. Even if they don't remember your name, they'll remember your hat.