The New Hat: Not copying anyone…

Mitch HatA dozen years ago my parents went to Australia, and asked if I wanted them to bring me back anything.  I asked for a koala.  Nothing doing.  Okay, then how about a hat?  They asked me to measure my head, and sure enough a few weeks later I was introduced to the Akubra brand, and have been wearing them since… sort of.

The Akubra Cattleman (fawn colour) hat quickly became part of my image.  I wore it for years… despite the fact that my friend Eileen (and my first fiancé) did not much care for it.

In November of 2003 I was visiting Toronto.  My car was parked in Chinatown, and when we came back to the car from wherever we had been, we discovered someone had smashed the back window and stolen (among other things) my hat.  Amazingly the police recovered many of the objects stolen… everything, in fact, except the liner of my ski jacket and my hat.  Either I was robbed by a big guy with good taste who started wearing my stuff, or by someone who quickly concluded those items were crap and discarded them.  I was distraught, but what can you do?  I wasn’t going to go back to Australia to buy a new hat.

About a year later I was having dinner with some people from Microsoft who were in town for a presentation, and some of them took me for dinner at Schwartz’s in Montreal.  Roger Benes joined us late and when he walked in he was wearing the identical hat to mine!  I was amazed – his was two sizes smaller than mine, but other than that it was the identical hat.  I asked him if he had been to Australia and he told me that no, there was actually a store in Ajax, Ontario called Picov’s that sold them.  I decided that on my first trip to Toronto I would head out there.

Indeed in May of the next year I was invited to Mississauga and I figured that hey, how big could the Greater Toronto Area really be?  I asked my friend Kathy if she would mind driving me out there.  It never occurred to me that Ajax was nearly 90 minutes drive from Mississauga, but there it was.  We got there, and sure enough they carried it, but it was out of stock.  Fortunately we knew the exact model and size that I wanted, and they shipped it to me a few weeks later.  I was thrilled to have the hat back.

Fast-forward two years later, I am now seriously dating Theresa (my wife) and we are living together.  I am becoming a father to her son Aaron, and we have adopted not one but two puppies – Jacob and Gingit.  Gingit quickly became the dog that would eat everything, including computer mice, cell phones.. .and one very coveted Akubra hat.  In fact she ate a very large hole out of the top.  I couldn’t believe it – I was furious, but what are you going to do?

I pinged Picov’s who were very sympathetic, but they told me that they were no longer carrying the Akubra line.  I would have to do some research.  Toward the end of the year Theresa and I were in Toronto and went looking for an Akubra dealer… and we found one, although he had closed his store and was now selling out of his house.  Mitch Black HatHe did not have the Cattleman, but he did have a similar model, and Theresa convinced me to try it out.  It was charcoal grey (although it looked black).  It was a little larger (the brim anyways), but it looked good, felt comfortable, and I decided this would be my new hat.

This one also lasted about a year and a half.  I was always careful to put it on a high shelf when at home, and out of Gingit’s reach.  However one day I was on a Go train heading home from a long day of training in Toronto.  As the train was pulling into the Oakville Station my phone rang and I was distracted as I collected my gear.  It was not until the train doors were closed and the train was moving that I realized that my head was cold.  I had left my hat on the seat on the train.  I was heading out of town the next day, and despite my efforts to phone Go Transit’s Lost & Found department from across the country, it was impossible to reach them, and I would have to go in person to Union Station to see if they found the hat.  By the time I was back in the city I was beyond their ‘we’ll keep your goods this long’ day, and I had no luck.

I started looking nearly immediately, and was thrilled to discover a store in Oakville that carried Akubra hats, and while they did not have the exact one I wanted in stock, they were glad to order it for me.  I went down to the Lakeshore a few weeks later and picked up my new tan Akubra Cattleman hat, that honestly looked identical to my two previous Akubra Cattleman hats!

Once again, everyone in my life knew me by my hat.  It is funny, it really does become part of my image.  People always tell me that wearing a hat – the right hat – suits me.

I have gotten to wearing the hat during all seasons except summer… which is to say that in I wear it from about September to June in Canada.  However I don’t usually wear it indoors, so when I arrive at the office I take it off and put it aside.  This was the case several months ago when I arrived at Microsoft Canada and put my hat aside in the room that a colleague and I were using.  When we came back from lunch it wasn’t there… so I assumed I had left it in the car (which does happen from time to time).  needless to say it was gone, and I never saw it again, despite an exhaustive search.

Very shortly thereafter I was in Redmond and picked up an Australian hat that was just not the same thing… it was much less expensive, but never had the right feel to it.  The people who did comment on it asked if I was slumming it.  I was not even sad when I accidentally left it on an airplane.  It was just not me… it didn’t look great, it never fit properly, and I just never got into it.

When I found out I was coming to Australia this year I was excited for several reasons… not the least of which is that this is where Akubras come from!  I did some research and found a store near my hotel called Strand Hatters.  It was just down the street, and unlike many of the other stores I have been to all they do is hats.  Checking their hours I saw they were open late Thursdays, and that is what I planned… I walked down there after I got back from work, and looked at several styles and colours,

The new Akubrait had been my original plan to buy the same colour and style I had become accustomed to, but as luck would have it they did not have my size.  That left me to choose between that colour in another style, or that style in another colour.  After spending twenty minutes deciding I decided to change both.  I ended up buying a style called Tabelands (brown-olive).  It is very similar to the Cattleman, with only slight differences.  It is a newer style, and a new colour to Akubra hats.  It will match my brown leather jacket very well, as well as go with just about anything I wear.

The fawn Cattleman was picked out for me by my parents, without any of us knowing how well it would suit me.  The second style (I can’t remember the name, but the colour was charcoal/black) we picked because of the limited selection available to me.  This style and colour I picked out for myself, with no limitations.  I expect it will be with me for a while – I will do everything in my power to hold on to this one, even though I have said that before.

I have now worn it for three days and it feels right.  I even let Rick from the store put a feather in the side, although that might or might not last.  Tomorrow I fly back to Tokyo, and I wonder how well I will fit in there.  I do know that when I am back in Canada this hat will be just what the doctor ordered for all seasons!

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4 thoughts on “The New Hat: Not copying anyone…

  1. Considering the history, did you buy a spare (or two)? Conversation with Canadian Customs: Okay Mitch, you have been through here several times carrying multiple laptops, but three hats?
    The colour also avoids the security issue of whether you are a white or black hat IT pro. 😉

  2. A string around the neck in this hat works well to! Though the string may look silly you may instead want to add a GPS tracking device or maybe an alarm when you stray too far from the hat. Shouldn’t there be an App for that? 😉

  3. Hi Mitch, I enjoyed reading your post. I understand your feelings about losing your hats, especially when it becomes your favorite. I just bought a model called “dundee”, similar to “Tabelands (brown-olive)” and it’s my favourite, I hope to keep it for a long time. Best regards… from Mexico.

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