The Great Cowboy Hat Experiment

Inquiry: What response would denizens of Los Angeles exhibit in response to the presence of a male wearing grossly inapposite attire (viz., a western-style cowboy hat) at various popular area venues?

Background: Sociohistorically speaking, hat-wearing among American males varies along a number of axes, both geographical (compare, e.g., prevalence of hat-wearing in rural areas v. relative dearth in urban regions) and temporal (compare, e.g., prevalence of fedoras during 1950s and 60s v. popularity of band “Men Without Hats” in 1980s).

’hatsCurrently, hat-wearing is en vogue among urban males occupying the coveted 18-34 age bracket. The light straw fedora, in particular, enjoys popularity as a fashionable accoutrement. Sightings of this practice have been reported with particular frequency in the restaurants and bars on Franklin across from the Scientology Center.

At their inception, all clothing trends test the boundary between brash novelty and shameful overreaching. Fashionistas come up with innovations, and these trickle down into the general population thanks largely to the vanguard of city-dwellers intrepid enough to serve as vehicles of sartorial innovation. This experiment seeks to identify the extent to which the threshold past which accessorization ceases to be novel and instead becomes simply absurd.

Hypothesis: However popular old-style hats may be in Los Angeles, wearing a cowboy hat goes too far too be taken seriously. Rather, it will elicit the following, in order of likelihood: slack-jawed stares; pointing and snickering; overt, aggressive taunting (e.g., “Hey dickface, go back to Brokeback Mountain”).

Equipment: 1 designer cowboy hat; 2 compatriots (names redacted to protect their identities); DF. (NB: DF is not wearing a cowboy hat to create an overall western-style outfit. Rather, he is dressed in standard casual gear (T-shirt, hoodie, shorts, flip-flops) to emphasize contrast with cowboy hat.)

Location:Los Feliz Village, along Vermont Ave. near intersex w/Franklin Ave.

Results: I begin at famed T-shirtery Y-Que Trading Post (which generously provided the cowboy hat that made this experiment possible), exit and head north along Vermont Ave., braced for derision. To my astonishment, none is forthcoming. On the contrary, patrons seated outside various sceney establishments cease eating, forks frozen in midair, food-stuffed mouths agog in admiration, as I roll by. Crowds on the street part like the Red Sea to my Moses. Tourists, understandably mistaking DF for a famous movie star, snap photos. Hipsters sporting formerly-trendy fedoras tear them from their heads in lamentation and/or bow their now-dehatted crowns reverently as I pass. It’s going quite well.

Zero hour: DF approaches House of Pies, entourage in tow. As we enter, a collective gasp escapes all pie-house patrons upon sighting the cowboy hat. A waitress, stunned out of proprioception, drops a tray. Its contents clatter loudly to the floor. Amid low murmurs, I am seated and, at last, speak. “One slice of pumpkin pie, please.” Waitstaff bump into one another, Three-Stooges-esque, as they rush to fill my order. One of the braver customers approaches and stammers, “You are – a god to me.” I finish the pie (diagnosis: delicious!) and pay, despite the management’s insistence to the contrary. By now, the cowboy hat’s fame has spread far and wide, and upon exiting I am blinded by the flashbulb-pops of countless paparazzi. I tip my hat chivalrously, and then dash off with my compatriots, dodging through alleys until I reach my vehicle and speed into the night.

Conclusions: My hypothesis proved exactly, yet gloriously, wrong. Far from pushing the boundary of in-headwear too far, the cowboy hat created fashion shockwaves, triggering a tsunami of trendiness that threatens to drown all other fads in its wake. To say “cowboy hats are the new fedoras” understates their coming popularity. Rather, cowboy hats are the new pants.

Recommendations: If you are a Losanjealeno male, ages 18-34, immediately head to your nearest western-themed haberdashery and purchase as many cowboy hats as possible. It will soon be considered egregiously socially unacceptable to exit your home without wearing one. In fact, to be safe, you should probably wear 2-4 cowboy hats at all times, lest you be considered uncool.

Caveat: The cowboy hat must be worn in the appropriate spirit of irony. In the literary context, irony refers to outcomes that are the exact opposite of the expected ones. But here, irony means something different: conduct that is simultaneously serious and conscious of its absurdity. One cannot help but be aware that wearing a cowboy hat out in L.A. is in one sense, patently ridiculous. Yet at the same time, in order to pull off an act of that degree of fashion hauteur, one needs to have a bad-ass, “I’m the king” attitude that is really quite serious. To paraphrase Noel Gallagher: “For a guy to look ridiculous, and effortlessly cool at the same time, that’s what it’s all about”.