Sunday, August 8, 2010

In Search of Hat

As a plein air painter, finding the right equipment is essential.  Getting out on site and finding out your easel is rickety or your palette isn't big enough is a shortcut to disaster.
You'll understand, then, why finding just the right hat is paramount.
Keeping the sun off the brain pan is as important as remembering to bring your paints along. There's keeping the head cool as well. Sweat trickling down into the eyes does not facilitate clear vision.

The garden variety straw hat will suffice if need be. Inexpensive and light, they're usually wide enough to keep the sun off the neck and shoulders, and loosely woven enough to let air flow through.  The down side is that they also have a tendency to catch gusts of wind, and it's a bit distracting to be choked by your own hat while it attempts to set sail still attached to your head.  Straw hats are also fairly brittle and do not hold up well to being sat upon, which you will do sooner or later.

The old ball cap, while comfortable, allows sun direct contact with ears and other tender skin. However,  with the addition of an old bandanna,

 the neck is protected fairly well. While very inexpensive, this arrangement is a bit geeky, no matter how cool you are. Lawrence of Arabia could get away with it, maybe, but with all the cheap hats out there that come with their own brims, really, why?

Knit caps are inappropriate for plein air painting.  No brim to protect the ears or neck. The fabric of the cap sits too close to the skull, thus keeping the head entirely too warm.  Plus, you end up looking like a monkey.

The coolie hat has many of the same disadvantages as the straw hat.  In addition, sitting on a pointy straw hat may harm more than just the hat.

After extensive research this weekend at the Olathe, Kansas, Bass Pro Shop, I discovered the Columbia Sun Goddess Booney hat.  Joy of joys, it's soft, UV rated, wads up into a little ball and springs happily back into shape.  The back brim is a bit wider than the front for extra protection of the neck, and unless you have huge ears, that's just fine. The neck strap is soft, so as not to leave strangle marks, which it probably won't anyway because the brim is soft and floppy and not likely to act as a sail, even in the strongest wind. And who wouldn't want to wear a Sun Goddess hat?

Another big plus is that while shopping at Bass Pro Shop in Olathe Kansas, you will be helped by fabulous employees like Pam & Jan. 

And while you're in Olathe, you might as well scoot over to the Nelson Atkins Museum and take a look around.  Their collection of fine art is world renowned, and they let you play badminton in the front yard with, or without, a hat.

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