City Life: The four fedoras

July 8, 2010

It’s been a few weeks now, there’s a truck that parks on my street with four fedoras arrayed on the dashboard, two folded together, one on top of the other almost obscuring it. The light dances off the windshield and gives the treasures inside a sparkly shine: the dashboard as vitrine.

I’ve considered the truck might belong to one of the guys working on the house across the street, a total gut job finally plucked from foreclosure. The door of the house has been open lately, hammering echoing to the streets. We never see the phantasmal workers who come and go on a schedule all their own.

I try to picture the man, or men, who might arrive in the truck, sitting three across in the front seat, doffing their hats in a smooth choreograph onto the dashboard. Or maybe there are four guys squeezed together, and two chose to join their hats on the dash. The intention to display is clearly casual: there are papers strewn about, a pair of sunglasses, a brochure of some sort.

I consider, too, that all the fedoras might belong to one dapper fellow, who wears a different one each time he exits his truck. Sometimes I picture this mystery man, hat on head, hammer in hand, producing the toc toc toc that comes from the hollowed house, and it never fails to amuse me.

The truck itself is big enough, tall enough, that the mystery man could even wear one of his fedoras while driving, or maybe all four, leaning jauntily like an improvised top hat. There aren’t a whole lot of opportunities to wear hats in cars these days.

Such a Chicago hat, the fedora: so noir, so Capone, so Blues Brothers. And so nostalgic: so Mad Men, so masculine.

Funny then that the first fedora ever worn was by a woman: the Divine Sarah Bernhardt, in an 1882 play called “Victorien Sardou.”

A gift to the men in the truck then, Sarah’s fedora.