The era of the beat-to-shit straw cowboy hat as an adult-hipster accessory is over.
Which isn't to say that the beat-to-shit straw cowboy hat is now officially a style no-no. After all, there will always be Supersuckers fans, and shirtless dudes in swim trunks, and pretty tattooed women who like rockabilly. No, the beat-to-shit straw cowboy hat will always be around; I'm just saying that it's had its day in the sun as cool, ubiquitous, gotta-have-it fashion statement.
And I, for one, am glad.
Not because I hate the beat-to-shit straw cowboy hat. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I didn't spend the last eight years making fun of trendy douche bags at Reverend Horton Heat shows because they looked stupid; I spent the last eight years making fun of trendy douche bags at Reverend Horton Heat shows because they looked awesome.
I was secretly — or perhaps not so secretly — upset that I didn't look as cool in a beat-to-shit straw cowboy hat as, say, a 24-year-old chick with aviator shades, a pin-up girl inked on one shoulder blade and a black bra strap peeking out from under a stained wifebeater.
The beat-to-shit straw cowboy hat calls to me in the way that the giant baggy jeans call to the adolescent white kid with the cornrows and the Korn fetish; the way that the big leather wallet with the fat chain calls to the doctor who only rides his Harley on weekends, and then only slowly; the way that the $200 Oakley sunglasses call to the Publix bag boy who's never ridden a snowboard in his entire life.
I know the beat-to-shit straw cowboy hat will complete me.
I know the beat-to-shit straw cowboy hat is the key that will unlock some hidden door, and allow my inner cool to finally shine out upon the waking world in its full, glorious intensity.
But it takes balls to rock the beat-to-shit straw cowboy hat. It takes confidence — the kind of confidence that, if I had it, would render the need to rock the beat-to-shit straw cowboy hat moot in the first place, and ain't that a particularly ironic species of bitch? The world is obviously full of people confident enough to wear things that make them look absolutely ridiculous, in the name of making them feel better about themselves.
I am not one of those people.
However, maybe now that only one out of every 100 people wears the beat-to-shit straw cowboy hat instead of one out of every dozen, I can pull it off. In all honesty, I'm perfectly happy to look like an idiot — I just don't want to look like every other idiot. And now that the world is no longer full of idiots looking better in their beat-to-shit straw cowboy hats than I do, maybe it's time for me to take a deep breath, plunk down my seven bucks, and emerge from the store the whole, fully integrated human being I've always known a beat-to-shit straw cowboy hat would make me.
This is what I was telling myself as I stood in front of the rack of straw cowboy hats at the Wal-Mart in Winter Haven. (Of course there's a Wal-Mart in Winter Haven; how could there not be?) All the reasons and rationales for going for it had lined up like stars in a particularly synchronous night sky. It was sunny and hot outside, I'd left the one baseball cap Milo the White Trash Terrordog has yet to mangle at home, and I was on my way to a Merle Haggard concert at Cypress Gardens. If there was ever a day to bite the bullet and start a new straw cowboy hat on its way down the road toward beat-to-shit-ness, this was that day.
I took a deep breath.
I closed my eyes.
I allowed my arm to extend itself toward the rack, almost of its own accord.
When it came back, it had the perfect straw cowboy hat by the bendable-wire brim.
I found a mirror, and I found nirvana — resting on the crown of my head, that straw cowboy hat was everything I'd always known it would be. My features looked somehow sharper, my eyes bluer, my longish hair less unkempt and more stylish. I experienced satisfaction on a whole new level. I wanted for nothing. I felt a contentedness that all the antidepressants in the world couldn't provide. My life was complete.
Also, I thought I looked pretty damn cute.
I strutted to the checkout line, almost forgetting to pick up the Crazy Glue I needed to fix Milo the White Trash Terrordog's fence. I winked at the septuagenarian working the register; she winked back. I stepped out into the sunny parking lot, my face so-much-more-than-adequately shielded from UV rays.
I took the hat off when Tattoo Jack, his wife Cindy and I sat down to eat at a local bar and grill, but my heart ached the whole time. I got up to go outside and smoke once more than was really necessary, just so — well, you know.
After lunch, I hunkered down in the back seat of the car, full and lazy and loving life, as we approached Cypress Gardens. The day could not possibly have gotten any better. We were going to listen to some Merle out under the sunshine, and man, I had a great hat. Heavy with food and fulfillment, I was almost asleep as we waited in a line of traffic to find a parking space.
Until Tattoo Jack's voice floated back to me on a cloud of barely concealed mirth.
"Hey Scott, look," he said. "That girl's wearing your hat."
That girl was indeed wearing my hat.
That hat I wore once, when I went to see Merle Haggard.
And not since.