Dad generally wore a hat on leaving the house. So did my grandfathers and my uncles. They would no more have gone on a Sunday picnic without the hat than without a suit coat and tie. The hat was part of the outfit. Once when I was two or three I was on the corner of Euclid Avenue and 12th Street in Cleveland, waiting for the light to change to cross the street. Dad had a load of parcels in his left arm, clutched to his chest in order to also keep hold of the brim of his fedora. My hand was in his right hand. As the light changed and Dad helped me step down off the curb the wind caught his hat and sailed it down the sidewalk. Dad considered only briefly; we crossed the street.
There was a green fedora on the hook in our closet, too. Dad wore it to irritate my mother on occasion, and he always wore it on St. Patrick’s day. It didn’t scream green; it was a very subdued dusty cedar green. I remember him going off to work in that hat, once a year, for a long time. Then one day it no longer hung in the closet. I doubt it blew away.
After he retired, Dad’s penchant for hats blossomed. He experimented with caps. He had a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker for a time, but it really didn’t suit him and it disappeared. He had a Russian Cossack that he did wear all winter. It was a beauty, dark, curly lambs’ wool. I think it was left behind somewhere and lost.
Dads' hands down favorite hat was his French beret. Unlike other hats that he removed on entering a building, greeting a friend or sitting down to a picnic, the beret never left his head. He found the headwear of his life late in life, but he logged more beret hours than any other, including the red wool French Canadian hat he wore every winter.
One summer, on a joint family vacation, probably rock hunting in North Carolina, we were touring some historic site, looking in old barns and cabins at the displays. A small knot of tourists always seemed near us, chatting excitedly. Finally two of them broke away, approached my parents and asked, “Excuse me for interrupting, but may I ask, are you Norman Rockwell.” My dad was so pleased he led them on for a few seconds past my mother’s tolerance. She said, “Now, John, tell them I’m not Mrs. Rockwell.”
The only picture I have of my dad with a hat, and it's his beret.