We are only given a few moments in life when something feels truly perfect. For Gint Aras, that perfect feeling came with a linen cap on a street in Lithuania.
I am very sensitive to bright sunlight and have always worn hats. Over the years, I must have had dozens of them. Except for baseball caps, which I dislike, they came in all varieties.
On a trip to visit friends in Los Angeles, I bought a military-style wool beret in a Venice Beach surplus store. In college, this became my signature hat, and people often identified me in crowds by looking for the black beret. I had pinned it with crests from various European cities I had visited. The cap was beaten and rough but comfortable and warm, and in autumn or light winter weather, I rarely left the house without it.
On a trip from Budapest to Linz, I accidentally left that beret on a train. It was difficult to replace a hat that had been an extension of me for over a decade. For years, I had no signature cap. I didn’t want to simply buy another beret, even if I could find an identical one. You can’t force these things. You have to wait for the right one.
One day I was wandering around the old town of Vilnius, Lithuania, one of my favorite cities. An overcast sky broke, and the day quickly grew hot and humid. Just as I wondered if I should go back to my apartment to get a hat, I saw a lady selling wares in a market square. She had a string of handmade, one-of-a-kind caps, the natural fibers traditionally bleached in the sun.
The lady was, indeed, the hatmaker. And she had fixed her eyes, enlarged by massive spectacles, on my head, a finger to her chin. She did not ask any questions but simply said, “I have your size.” She handed me a mirror and, without measuring my head, tucked a light cap over my crew cut. The feeling was instant. I’d be wearing this cap wherever I went.
Sewn from pure linen, the cap was a shade between white and light gray. It fit so well that I barely felt it on my head. As I wandered around the medieval old town, I immediately perceived myself differently in the city’s store windows.
This can’t be denied: there is something about the perfect hat that announces a man’s adulthood and confidence. There’s a time and a place for everything, even our fashion statements. It’s an arrival of sorts. And there are certain hats that, with time, wear themselves closer to you. So much of my personality is contained in that cap—I can wear it with virtually any outfit, and almost any event. It’s great at the beach, while drinking a Mount Gay Rum mojito. If I put it on backwards, it’s wonderful casual wear. If I wear it properly, it compliment a sport coat or dress shirt.
While I love the cap, I don’t mean to say I have any good fashion sense. In many ways, fashion annoys me. Even if I could afford the world’s most expensive clothing, I doubt I’d spend very much time compiling a huge wardrobe. I like having as few things as possible, and get into arguments with my wife about how many dinner plates a family of four really needs to have in the cupboard. My linen cap communicates this practical minimalism without making it seem like I don’t care about how I look.
It’s interesting to compare the feeling of wearing the pinned beret and the linen cap. That beret announced adventurous, haphazard youth. The pins clearly bragged Look how many places I’ve visited. Curiously, I lost it at exactly the time when I no longer felt the need to make these kinds of announcements. And I stumbled into the linen cap when I had found the quiet calm of adulthood, perhaps when I became open to my own confidence.
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Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Mount Gay Distilleries via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Mount Gay Distilleries.