Can a hat make you happier?

The 2017 Self-Care Project: Entry #6

Last week I got a new hat. I am so happy with this hat, that it stands out above all else when I think over the week. The thing is, I am perpetually dissatisfied with my clothing. I am conscious that this all sounds a bit materialistic, but my new sunshine hat has got me musing a lot about clothes, and I think maybe it’s not.

When I open my wardrobe, often I just look in and sigh or scowl. I have too much, and most of it just feels empty, random, cheap and often, worn out. And it bothers me, more than I think it should. It feels like such a first-world problem. I flip-flop between telling myself to just suck it up and be grateful for all I have, and deciding to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, which ultimately means having a clothing cull and then buying a bunch of new shit online.

So, yeah. Over the past few months, I bought a bunch new of shit online. Mostly jeans, but also other items. And as always, it didn’t really help. Most stuff looked or felt bad, wasn’t what I had in mind; nothing “solved” my problem. Actually, I ended up sending the vast majority of it back, And while I am sure it was partly the fact that I was feeling kinda down, there were other things. The whole process just doesn’t sit well. Opening those plastic packages to the waft of chemical smell, the waste of fuel from sending it back again, all that mass-produced stuff, made who knows where under who knows what conditions… On some level, I kind of resist thinking about these things too much because, well, buying things on demand is really convenient and, frankly, in the moment it is just enjoyable. It’s a bit of a treat.

But then, there is this new hat of mine that is making me think. It’s sunshine yellow and orange, a wool-angora mix, knit by the owner of a small yarn shop in my community. I paid a lot for it, relative to the usual price for a store-bought hat, but I was happy to hand that money to the person who made it. On Monday, while hustling to this baby music group to meet a bunch of stranger moms in my new hat I thought to myself, I feel like a million bucks. And then I puzzled over that for a minute, amazed, because really, it was just the hat.

I was wearing a nothing-to-write-home about second hand black down jacket with a zipper that routinely splits, boring, slightly outdated jeans and worn out (and not in a good way) boots. In the land of impeccably maintained everythings, I was pushing Alida in my dirty, rumpled stroller with the split zipper up one side of the basket, and (literally, thanks Jonah) chewed off foam on either side of the handle. It’s missing its footplate too, which snapped off 3 months ago when my wiggly preschooler jumped on it at the airport. Instead, it sports big, gnarly wires holding the seat to the dismembered bars on each side. Really classy, believe me.

But, man. I felt good in my hat!

And as I thought about it, I realised that although I totally like the way it looks, I feel good in it more for conceptual reasons than aesthetic ones. And it occurred to me that this may be the answer to my perpetual dissatisfaction with my clothing.

I tend to feel guilty quite a bit, more than necessary, probably, so it’s not something I particularly like to proliferate. I think most of us are trying to live right, and life is lovely but tough and people should treat themselves. But the pleasure I’m getting from that hat relative to my experience buying things online is noteworthy. I’ve always assumed my ongoing issues with my clothing have mostly to do with my ever-bored brain seeking out novelty, especially of the visual sort…

But then, when I go to my wardrobe, there are items that have stuck around, that I still actually like and wear, years later.

The pleated toile skirt I sewed for myself in fourth year undergrad, 11 years ago.

The made in America vintage Calvin Klein jean jacket I got at Frenchys in high school.

The second hand jeans I’ve patched and re-patched for the last 7 years.

The scarf my uncle got my grandmother while doing charity work in Afghanistan, which she passed on to me.

And that’s about it. I have a few other current favourites, I don’t know if they will stand the test of time, but I can say that aside from the soft striped t-shirts that never last long, many of them are also “treasures”. One-of-a-kind things, or things bought to last, things with a story, and things that I feel come with integrity of materials and process. A flea market leather jacket, a bold red number I refashioned from a Frenchys kids’ dress, a pair of vintage denim workman’s overalls from a second-hand shop in Toronto, a long, heavy wool sweater coat, a sunshine yellow hand-knit hat.

This is all to say, I think that my dissatisfaction with my wardrobe, which I usually consider somewhat materialistic, is actually a deeper kind of ethical discomfort with what I’m clothing myself in. On the flip side, integrity makes me happy, as it should, I guess.

So what do I do about it? I am not going to go an throw everything out. That’s what I feel like doing, but even if I could get over my mild hoarding tendencies and do that, I would probably just end up cheaply replacing things in weak moments. Instead, I am going to try and slowly and mindfully evolve my wardrobe. I’ve taken out a lot of things that I don’t feel good about, which I will just carefully put aside now for hysterical “WHY DID I GET RID OF THAT I NEED IT NOW!!!” moments. Over time, I would like to thoughtfully pass things on, instead of the old purge and buy. As I (slowly) get new things, I am going to try and do the following:

Consider the origins of clothing articles (e.g., where were they made? by whom?).

Buy quality items to last.

Make my own clothing and buy handmade clothing at a fair price (for the maker).

Buy second hand.

Care for items, maintain them. Wash carefully, de-lint, mend holes, sew on buttons, deal with stains right away. Fold or hang nicely. 

I know this will mean paying more, either with money or time, but I think in the end, it will do good things for my well-being. I mean… even if it just cuts down on laundry. 😉 Actually, I’ve already started knitting a warm scarfy-thing, because I needed one, and although I’m pretty bad at it, the wool is beautiful and I’m really looking forward to wearing it.

So let’s see how this goes. I’ll do a follow up on this in a few weeks. It’s probably going to be harder than I think to follow through here, it always is, but I have to say, I feel unusually good about my clothing situation.


p.s. I am wearing my hat right now. Obviously. 🙂

p.p.s. Any knitters out there interested in an art-for-knitwear trade? Seriously.

p.p.s. Speaking of knitting – I’ve just had an editorial illustration published in lovely Pom Pom magazine! Got my copy today! ♥

2 thoughts on “Can a hat make you happier?

  1. Elaini

    I really love this post. I think it’s beautiful that you’re thoughtfully working through this because lets be honest…clothing is a big part of our lives. We clothe ourself with more than just items we can buy. We clothe ourselves with kindness or grace or we can clothe ourselves with impatience and greed. What we clothe our souls/attitudes with is important so I don’t see why clothing itself wouldn’t be important. I don’t think it has to be a superficial thing. Of course it can be but it doesn’t have to be. Okay now I’m just processing out loud haha. Anyways I’m excited to see the follow up post. Also I love to help people clean out their clothes so I wish you lived closer haha!

  2. Linda powell

    The hat is joyful sunshine yellow with a jolly pom-pom of course it makes you happy. It is practical warm and cosy, lifting the spirit of the wearer. Even better that the maker took pride in the result and no doubt made it with love. Such should be our feelings for all our clothes. Take your time buying and choosing so as to develop a true understanding of what works for you. Life situations change, children start school, all these things will reflect in your wardrobe. It’s a lifelong project.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *