I Wore a Tiny Hat for a Week, So You Never Have To

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

I know you’ve seen them. On that girl skating at TRH-Bar, on that frowning softboy shivering while he walks to class, and on every single Australian barista at Dispatch. The tiny hats. Looking like a mix between a streetwear yarmulke and a woolen, human head-sized condom, tiny hats™ are one of the most fascinating trends among hip youths in 2019. The concept is quite simple: a normal beanie, rolled up so that only the very top of the wearer’s head is covered.Though it seems like a dumb idea that defeats the whole purpose of wearing a hat, consider ankle-baring cuffed jeans or vaping; sometimes the hip youths are willing to risk a little danger to look cool. So, I set out to discover the truth once and for all: what’s the deal with tiny hats? My experiment had simple, straightforward rules: for one week, I would wear a beanie rolled up so that my whole ear stays exposed, and record what I feel and what other people say. What I ended up discovering would end up shaking my faith in the very definition of cool.

Ready to face my ‘week of the tiny hat’, I donned my favourite mustard-coloured beanie on Monday and rolled its brim up twice its normal length, as is customary according to my research on the Instagram accounts of @tinyhatsnyc and @tinyhat_skatelife, half-satirical meme accounts that did for tiny hats what Four Pins did for Jonah Hill. I looked in the mirror and immediately knew something was off. My ears were almost completely covered. Frantically I folded the brim again. This time, the hat looked comically small. Well, more comically small than even a tiny hat ought to look. After twenty more minutes of trying to make the beanie into an appropriate tiny hat, I realized my first big lesson of the week: not every beanie can be a tiny hat.  Finally, I properly folded one of the two grey beanies from my extensive three-beanie hat collection, said goodbye to my cat, and walked out the door.

After the lecture, I decided to go somewhere I knew my tiny hat would feel at home: Dispatch coffee in the McConnell engineering building.

My first day wearing a tiny hat was like going to class with a big zit: I felt dumb, I was constantly adjusting my hair, and I just hoped nobody pointed it out. I quickly got used to it, but wearing a tiny hat gives you the strangest feeling that the hat isn’t quite on your head. It’s slipping off, blowing away, it’s just not secure. At least, that’s what it feels like. During the walk to my 9:30am in the education building, I encountered right off the bat the main thing about tiny hats that makes them feel so wrong: frozen bare ears. Not only did I have to walk up the hill at an ungodly hour of pre-noon, but the tiny hat also created the perfect aerodynamic conditions for icy wind to barrage my ears. Walking up the McTavish hill on my miserable way to Shakespeare class, I thought for the first time what would become my mantra of the week: this is not a hat.

After the lecture, I decided to go somewhere I knew my tiny hat would feel at home: Dispatch coffee in the McConnell engineering building. The baristas at Dispatch are known for three things: being inimitably & inexplicably cool, being Australian for some reason, and their affinity for tiny hats, of course. That Monday, I was finally smiled at (with teeth!) by not one, but TWO of the Dispatch baristas I have been in love with in a strangely Pavlovian way for years. With an almond milk dirty chai in hand and my faith in my own coolness restored, I confidently waited to take a midterm in my Political Science class. My professor, wearing a sort of olds’ tiny hat himself in a beret, even made conversation with me before the exam in a showing of hat solidarity, telling me not to worry about the midterm, and that he hopes he doesn’t frighten me. Whether it was the hat or the brain underneath, I kind of killed that midterm. Oddly sweaty, I went to my last uneventful literature class of the day and braved the cold walk home. Lounging around in a tiny hat seemed like it would be the simplest part of the week, but as early as Monday night the itching started. I don’t know how people wear hats all the time, tiny or not. Not even middle school lice is as itchy as a tiny hat you hate. Needless to say, by the end of the first day I was more than happy to take off my tiny hat, take a shower, and go to bed.

Maybe that’s why the hats are so tiny, they’re falling off because anyone who wears one spends all their time sticking their nose in the air.

On Tuesday, I woke up bright and early because the fire alarm had been going off for three minutes and my roommate didn’t know how to turn it off. Saying goodbye to my beautifully tousled (sticking straight up) sleep-dried hair, I yanked on the second of my two grey beanies as the tiny hat of the day, accepted my fate of being awake, and made some coffee. It then occurred to me, that I would wear my beanies more times this week than I had collectively ever worn them– an upside of this experiment that would have made Marie Kondo proud, had the hats sparked joy rather than horrible rage. As I dressed for my 8:30, I realized that I couldn’t just wear anything. I had to look the part of the cool, uncaring tiny hat wearer. Of course, that meant I really could wear anything as long as I carried myself with the right attitude of condescension. Maybe that’s why the hats are so tiny, they’re falling off because anyone who wears one spends all their time sticking their nose in the air. That day, I added another grievance to my tiny hat hate list. To preface this complaint: if you have AirPods, skip to the next paragraph, close the article, I don’t need your negative energy here. I don’t have AirPods and I’m not going to spend a month’s rent on them. I wear stringed headphones like a prole and one of the best parts of beanies is that they keep these earbuds in your ears on windy days. I spent more time cleaning slush off my earbuds and putting them back in my ears than I did listening to music on my commutes this week. On day two, I was already fed up.

After answering for what seemed like the millionth time that yes, my ears were cold, I left the McLennan library to walk home on Tuesday night. THAT Tuesday night. The one with the snowstorm that gave McGill its third snow day since the 80’s. Walking home in that blizzard, I felt the most judgement from random strangers that I have ever felt in my life. This, coming from a white person who travelled to India. I felt as dumb as I looked, and lost feeling in my ears before I had even left campus. While slipping and falling on ice during this horrible, seemingly hatless walk home, I kept on the tiny hat but touched my naked ear to straight up ice and lodged snow into my left earbud. After coming home, I ripped off my hat for the day and showered, trying with excruciating pain to slowly bring feeling back to my ears. I began to realize for the first time that this trend isn’t just foolish, for Montrealers, it’s dangerous.

On Wednesday, the tiny hat gods blessed me with a snow day. It’s as if they were saying, “Hang ten, Sarah. Stay gnarly. Stay inside”. But then, the tiny hat gods did a kickflip on my heart. I went to the washroom to brush my teeth Wednesday morning and was met with a horrible sight. Acne! My forehead, having not breathed fresh air in 48 hours, was starting to fight back against my tiny hat. I felt like Andrew Glouberman in Netflix’s Big Mouth: My Furry Valentine, trying to look cool in a hat and ending up with cheap material fused to your scalp. Luckily, I could use the hat to cover up this acne, although this would undoubtedly promote a cycle of pimples that I could really live without. That morning when I put on my tiny hat, I could practically hear my pores screaming for me to save them. Discouraged and still extremely itchy, I lounged around that day and took to Snapchat to broadcast my “hip” self. I was met with the a myriad of negative responses from my friends, including: “that is a hat for nothing”, “yeah dumb decision”, “you look like a real softboy”, “why would you wear a tiny hat that doesn’t cover your little ears?”, “lame and impractical”, and my personal favourite: “USELESS HATS!”. I comforted myself by keeping in mind that Wednesday means hump day, over halfway through this week. If there is anything you take away from this article, dear reader, let it be this: tiny hats are USELESS HATS!

Was the gruff nature of tiny hat-wearers just a stereotype? Or was the shared experience enough to crack their cynical exteriors?

Walking to my 8:30 class on Thursday, I noticed something else that had been nagging at me during the week. In my tiny hat, I was being stared at by everybody. Everywhere I looked, a pair of eyes was fixed on my face, my forehead, my ears… my tiny hat. I developed a newfound understanding of the real people who wear tiny hats at McGill: they’re not standoffish or shy, they’re terrified. At least, I was. Why were all these people looking at me, almost with reverence? Moving out of my way in the halls, stopping so that I could pass them on the street. Talking to each other. About me? I’ve never felt so alienated in my own school. I tried smiling at them, which let to four different people asking me whether my ears are cold before nine in the morning. Itchy, freezing, and now pissed off, I took to giving secret little smiles to anyone else I could find with a tiny hat on. I was shocked when every single one of them smiled back at me. Was the gruff nature of tiny hat-wearers just a stereotype? Or was the shared experience enough to crack their cynical exteriors? Either way, on my trip to the bank after class I received an eye roll from the teller, and remembered that the real world outside university campuses and skate parks think tiny hats are entirely silly. I left the bank a little bashful and studied for another midterm. Whether it was the hat or the studying, I felt horribly sweaty during the afternoon. That night, I had to shampoo my hair three times because it was so greasy. I remember thinking, “if this experiment ruins my hair forever, I’m going to burn every hat I own”.

Friday, I woke up with a smile on my face and a breeze on my forehead. This was it, the last day I had to wear a godforsaken tiny hat for the rest of my life! In the feminine aspect at least, wearing a tiny hat did reduce my makeup time from five minutes to one minute, essentially covering up a third of my face for me. Somewhat accustomed to the staring, I told my ears I loved them and proudly ventured once more up the hill to the Education building. Taking the midterm, I could still feel eyes on me. In hindsight, my “hell week” of midterms may not have been the perfect time to try out a radically new fashion statement piece. Walking back home, I met the one fear I hadn’t even thought to be afraid of: a tour group. I tried my best to make weak smiles and convince them that not all McGillians are cold-hearted Montreal hipsters. Talking with a friend, I complained about how incredibly greasy my hair had become and together we realized that maybe that’s why boys wear the tiny hat: to cover up their bad hair days without sacrificing their right as a man to freeze their ears off.

Looking back on my week of wearing tiny hats, I am overwhelmed by how much hatred I developed for hats as a concept. Even ice skating on Lake Beaver, I was adamant that my head stay bare. However, walking down the street I have noticed that the very top of my head, that miniscule bit that was covered by my tiny hat, is much colder than usual. Even without wearing it, the tiny hat continues to wreak havoc on and in my head. I think perhaps my ears were even colder than usual in the horrible hats, because it was magnified by the unnatural scalp warmth. Listen, I understand not wearing a hat. Maybe you don’t want hat hair. Maybe you like how the breeze feels in your luscious locks. Maybe you underwent a harrowing journalistic experiment in university and will never wear a hat again. But if you’re not going to wear a hat, just don’t wear a hat. Do not wear a tiny hat. If you’re wearing a hat, wear a hat. A hat covers your ears. Never, in any circumstance, is it appropriate to wear a tiny hat. Animals.

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