Want to be Free: Learn to wear a hat

The problem is that people talk about fighting for freedom, but often by the time they are voting age adults, they are so beat down with compromise that they no longer know what freedom is or why they should be fighting for it. We talk about it all the time, fighting for freedom. Yet very few people are remotely free in their lives; they have bosses at their jobs, spouses often working at odds with them, and peer pressures in their neighborhoods. Medical professionals always tell us what to do, which was common before Covid became a government policy disaster. Then there are the various governments in our lives, the local zoning board as to whether or not a water garden can be built on our private property, whether a state governor can ruin our lives with lockdowns and other fears of economy, or an executive branch at the federal level who will sign a piece of paper that could actually destroy our physical bodies with a vaccine mandate. Most people are so burdened with obedience to many other people in their lives that they have no idea what freedom is or what they should be doing with it. So it’s hard for them to know why they should be fighting for it or even why they should value it at all. Oddly enough, as I was thinking about all these things, I have grandchildren who are at that magical age of deciding who they will be for the rest of their lives. They were asking about these matters, for which I gave them their first hats and told them why I have always worn a hat of some kind and what benefits it can provide them in the quest for personal freedom and benefit their lives in magnificent ways. 

One of my favorite hat stores in America, at Jackson Hole, Wyoming

It was a pretty good moment to explain why I have always worn a variation of a cowboy hat all my life to my grandchildren because they wanted to know. But the message has value well beyond family advice on how to live a better life, which is worth sharing. I learned early in my life that being unique was a freedom that had value in it, and to protect that freedom when you are too young to fight it off physically and mentally, is to shake off your attackers with audacity. So, I wore hats to declare my own unique look. Being young or old and having hair or not are conditions of nature, but wearing a hat was a proclamation of controlling your own appearance by choice, by invention. Even in the third and fourth grade, I started this process, and I wore my hats even to bed at night, and I found that within that simple measure, I was teaching myself to love personal freedom and making decisions that showed I had control over my appearance and was not a victim to public opinion. Of course, whenever you make such a declaration, people will make fun of you for it. And sometimes, those opinions can be brutal. It is amazing how threatening to people a kid wearing a hat can be, but I heard some of the worst and most violent talk when I was age 10 through 15 that you can imagine, just because I showed up in public places always wearing a hat. But those were some very valuable years because I learned not to care. And as I learned not to be shaped by the opinions of others, I learned to have real independence in my life, which has dramatically frustrated a significant number of people. 

We all wear hats in my family, always have

We were indeed a better society during periods where people wore hats, even though the social stigma favored them, such as during the Revolutionary period with the tri-cornered hats that were common to the day. Or the cowboy hats of western expansion. Then there were the fedoras of the roaring twenties up until the socialist incursions of the 60s. Hats were a statement of independence and control over nature. If it started raining, you could use your hat to shield your head from the elements of chaos coming in the form of weather. If you were balding, you could fashion your own style of cosmetic appearance with a good hat. Hats showed individual taste, they could be whatever color you wanted, and they projected your values to the world. But to those who wanted to reject those values, hats were dangerous because they showed individual expression, which was a real threat to the collectivist intentions of Marxism. Some of the cruelest comments that came in my direction about my hats as a kid came from the drug user class of long-haired hippies and dope smokers. When I wore a hat, it threatened them and their desires for social conformity. That safe place where a stoned mind and social camouflage could insulate them from the opinions of others. They certainly didn’t want to stand out in a crowd; they wanted to blend in. And when they saw someone who didn’t feel those social fears, it truly scared them. 

At that Jackson Hole hat shop, getting my latest one steamed to shape

I told my grandchildren that people would ridicule them for wearing their hats in public. Anything they show to the world that they valued would be ridiculed to no end, and if people could steal their hats and destroy them, they would do it to punish them for even wearing them in public. I explained that people are cruel because they don’t want to live up to the expectations of personal independence and crave to hide in the shadows where it’s safe. Wearing a hat publicly was a declaration of independence and a real threat to their existence. So be ready for anything and everything. But the benefit would be that by the time you are an adult, which will be most of your life, you will have been well practiced in being your own person. Nobody really cares what you look like after age 30, so don’t waste your lives trying to look like a teenager.

Enjoy your life no matter how old you are. Wear a hat that reflects who you are and how much you like it. Don’t let them make you feel bad for self-expression. And by the time you are 40, 50, and 60 years old, nobody will care if you wear a hat in public. They’ll avoid you most of the time, but making fun of you will stop. So the task of being young and out of control of your social circumstances because so many other factors are still governing your lives is to learn not to care what the opinions of others are. And when you do that, you will gain valuable freedom that will spill over into other parts of your life and enrich yourself. To have real freedom in life is to be free of the opinions of others. Once you do that, you can understand freedom’s basic premise and why it’s worth fighting for. A society of people who have worn hats to express that freedom had a better ability to maintain that freedom. But a society of people who care too much about what other people think are not going to understand why freedom is worth fighting for. Because essentially, they aren’t free anywhere in their lives if they constantly fear what the opinions of others are. So as I told my grandchildren, wear your hats. Don’t listen to what people say to you, and learn to love the controversy. Because when people’s opinions no longer control your actions, you can start to see yourself as a free person.

Rich Hoffman

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