GEAR: Unused Japan

There’s magic in a really good hat. With it one needs little else to feel fully put together.

My signature hat is a vintage Stetson Open Road. I’ve had it for what’s going on four years now, and like the best things in life it was purchased at a garage sale.

It was springtime. The cherry blossoms were in bloom and that morning everything looked  very green and the earth smelled very wet.  I had parked my truck far away, amidst a bunch of dogwood trees and telephone poles as I like to walk and I’m a terrible parallel parker.

The first few houses I stopped at that morning didn’t offer much in the way of thrifted treasures. There was a  young couple with children who had lots of onesies and VHS tapes for sale. I stopped to browse on the porch of an older victorian home, where another family was hawking the the same sorts of blasé ash trays and figurines you find in every midwestern thrift store. Even so, I was un-wavering in my quest to find The Good Stuff.

The third stop was a little bungalow house, where a gruff older man was selling off the majority of his worldly possessions from the comfort of his alley-facing garage. The radio was on, and he had a Miller Lite bottle opened up on a little folding table next to him, along with a paperback book he was reading.  Items he was hawking included a bucket of old ‘I LIKE IKE’ buttons, a bunch of rusted nondescript tools, and loads of dog-eared and thick books — mostly fictional tales of WWII heroism based loosely on true evens. So obviously, I stopped to browse.

At the back of his garage, as JackFM country played from a little shop radio, — I found a perfectly faded and softened Stetson — ribbon and pin still intact, with nary even a sweat stain to sully it’s pristine outward appearance. Weirdly there was no hat box  to be seen. Usually hats that old which still look brand spankin’ new have some sort of box which accompanies them, like a turned-out escort but this one was just placed on the top of a milk crate filed with vintage Playboys. (Which were also cool, but my eyes were on the prize of a different sort.)

I picked up the hat immediately and asked the army vet how much he was selling it for, trying to keep my poker face. The man looked at me sideways from his perch on a nylon-webbed lawn chair that faced the sun and the parade of young families strolling by who were also out that day in search of a good deal.

“For you? Thirty dollars. But ya gotta promise to take care of it”

It was such a great bargain that it felt like stealing.  I asked him a second time — “Are you sure?” and angrier he answered, “I said thirty, and I ain’t goin’ any lower. You either want it or ya don’t.”

Well I did want it. I had taken forty dollars out of my account at a tiny gas station ATM that morning. I handed over two twenties and got the hell out of there before he could even try and make change. The extra tip was my karmic nod of approval to the man whose hat was about to give me a whole new outlook on life. I hit the road for home  — Stetson already firmly atop my head.

If I could, I think I would wear that hat with my favorite high-waisted jeans and  blouse every day. It’s the uniform wherein I feel the most like myself.

So thank you, hat — you will never go out of style and I will never let you be forsaken in a dark corner of my closet or my garage. You have an energy and an aura that must be respected. Just like the angry yet sweet man who sold you to me.


If you’re looking for something rad for your own melon and money is no object, allow me to point you in the direction of UNUSED — a flame Japanese clothing brand that is as  excruciatingly cool as it is weird and hard to find. Recommended source? the Good Hood Store.

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However, if a young Pharrel in-the-making you are not, log into the virtual garage sale that is eBay. Who knows, maybe you’ll find an Open Road of your own.

Thrifting Tips

1. The key to striking it rich while thrifting is to give everything an equal chance and to look carefully at what’s being sold — even if from first glance the selection seems less than stellar. (This is why the best bargain-hunters you know also have the best bullshit meters. They have a nose for good stuff and for good people in equal measure.)

2. But really the first rule of thrifting?  Never let them know how much you want it. Prices as well as an unwillingness to part with treasured items both go up as your desperation shows. Keep a straight face.

3. Always know where the closest ATM is.