It's been said California is the one state where people communicate by bumper sticker.
After spending time at the Utah State Fair, I've decided Utah is one state where people communicate by baseball cap.If you want to know what's on a guy's mind at the state fair, look at what's on his head.
"Ex-wife for sale," read one hat. "Just take over payments"
"I'm the guy your mother warned you about," warned another.
"Eat, drink and be merry and you'll be fat and drunk."
And, "If you complain, God makes you live longer."
Most of the slogans came from the redneck right. A lot of gun jargon, a lot of car company logos and hard-nosed notices about beer and women. I even saw a couple of caps - heaven forbid - with the logos of baseball teams on them.
I didn't see many "Lengthen your stride" caps.
And I didn't garner a lot of wisdom from all that reading either, though I did learn there's a tacky and a stylish way to dress, even in blue collar America. Winter's coming on, so most people with outdoor jobs and hobbies are going to corduroy caps now. The light summer variety will appear in the spring. Even when they wear billboard messages, people tend to be practical.
Many people feel Westerners dress for effect. Not so. It takes three seconds, for instance, to separate the drugstore cowboys from the real. Real cowboys usually wear straw cowboy hats in summer for comfort, then go back to felt hats in winter. Pretend cowboys would wear a straw hat in a blizzard. Serious cowboys also wear belt buckles that mean something - a rodeo championship buckle, a club membership buckle, etc. Drugstore guys gussy up their middles with meaningless trash. They also gussy up their heads with outrageous feather hatbands and gaudy up their feet with exotic leather boots.
As one old timer told me, "Men just weren't meant to wear birds on their heads and snakes on their feet."
Real cowboys never wear tin.
Even at the Utah State Fair, it was easy to spot the genuine cap guys. The true-blue ballcappers wore caps with the names of implement and machinery companies on them: "Big J Mill," "John Deere," "Horsley Feed and Seed." You don't pick those hats up at a Western wear shop or at booths at a fair. You have to be a working stiff to know where those hats are kept.
Finally, to wind up these blue-collar fashion notes, let me say the best-looking caps have well-rounded brims (what my dad calls "Donald Duck bills") and the caps look lived in. Grease stains on the bill where they tug it on and off. Sweat marks. Grime here and there. You have to wear boots and ballcaps at least a year before they fit.
In the end, a trendy cap wearer sees his hat as an extension of his personality.
Real cap wearers see them as extensions of their bodies.
Watch the rodeos. When it begins to rain, a self-styled fashion plate takes his favorite hat off.
But true hat men, that's when they put their favorite hats on.