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  • Writer's pictureSteven Heller

The Magic Hat

It is normal to admire the way someone looks on the street. Sometimes one is inspired to even offer a compliment, although more often such outbursts are unwanted catcalls. But is it normal for an average post-middle-aged guy like me to be complimented on an almost daily basis for wearing a hat? Me? Ever since I started wearing a summer-weight straw fedora that I bought this past June in a small hat store near Piazza Navona, Antica Cappelleria Troncarelli, in Rome, at least one, and sometimes more, strangers every day say this: “Nice hat. It looks good on you.”

The Magic Hat (on one of my surrogates).

OK, I can understand “Nice hat.” It is indeed a very nice hat. And it fits like a glove. That’s why I bought it. It does a good job of keeping the sun off my bald head, which in Rome was essential given the lack of shade, and in New York it is equally efficient.

But maybe it’s also a magic hat. Just yesterday three people from different walks of life made the same comment: “Nice hat. It looks good on you.” First, an elderly man sitting on a fire hydrant. Second, a 20-something Goth art student. Third, a homeless man holding a sign on the corner of Park Avenue and 21st St. If you think the latter was simply shucking me for a handout, that was not the case. Each time this happens the people are quite sincere (as a native New Yorker, I know when I’m being played).

So what is it about the hat? My guess is that I stumbled into a curious energy force. No, I’m not into spiritualism or superstition, but perhaps the hat gives me powers that I don’t have without it. As designers we all know that certain typefaces, colors and layouts capture the eye more than others. For whatever reason the otherwise random combination of Heller and Hat exudes some positive aura.

I don’t know why I was chosen for this gift, yet in difficult times like these, even such brief positive human interactions have paid for the hat ten or a hundred times over.

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