You gotta look sharp

9 Apr

AtJohn70th.jpeg

Easter Sunday in 1960s East New York, Brooklyn, was a day when little Roman-Catholic boys like me (r.) were made to look like men.

This was not our doing but our mothers’.

One by one these well-meaning women would drag their sons to the discount shopping district on Pitkin Avenue, a short walk from the apartment buildings where we lived. There the local shopkeepers would fit us boys into new sports coats and trousers, dress shirts and neckties, sometimes even shiny new leather shoes.

This annual ritual was very important to our church-going mothers; I know it was to mine.

I have never grasped how the grownups in our neighborhood could justify such an elaborate expense for so fleeting a moment. Once Easter had come and gone so went the fancy new duds, tossed into a dark closet or shoved under a boxspring, rarely if ever to be worn or seen again. The hard-earned monies spent to acquire the clothing simply vanished into thin (though, I should hope, this being a religious holiday, blessed) air.

The most confounding items in our Easter wardrobe, at least to me, were the hats, those fedoras and pork pies, trilbies and homburgs that our mothers would place upon our soft little noggins with purpose and, yes, pride.

These were guaranteed one-time-use-only deals, these hats. What eight year old decides to throw on a fedora when not coerced by an encouraging, God-fearing parent?

[Before going further I should mention here that by hat I mean, well, hat. Baseball caps certainly are not hats; that’s why they’re called caps and not hats. Newsboy and other types of caps, far more stylish and wholly more respectable than the baseball variety, also are not hats. I’m glad we cleared that up, aren’t you?]

Hat wearing takes a voluntary turn only after a boy becomes a man. And even then it’s a crapshoot. I haven’t been a churchgoer since I was old enough to make my own decision, and so Easter headgear hasn’t been in play for decades.

It wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I voluntarily started to wear a hat, the first being a brown felt fedora from the famed Borsalino of Italy. The hat was a gift from my swell wife Joan, and is still very much in use today. She says that in it I appear more distinguished than is actually so.

My hat collection has grown quite substantially since then, moreso than makes good sense in the place where I live. Maine is more rugged and countrified, more casual than prime hat-wearing cities like New York; a fine felt fedora can often be out of place, if not downright ill advised. Hell, there are some places and events up here that I’d sooner wear a dress.

My father did not have a hat collection. He wore an old fedora on Easter Sunday and for other special occasions, but strictly out of utility and obligation, not by style choice. He was a man who might have benefited from regular hat wearing, as he was just shy of a cue ball on the balding scale. Some fine felt might have looked rather swell on him, and could certainly have helped to keep his bald head warm in winter.

I do not need a hat to keep my head warm, not even here in the wilds of Maine. I have my mother’s hair. Lots and lots and lots of it.

I also inherited from her a desire to, on occasion at least, and with the aid of a very fine hat, look sharp. And so this Easter Sunday, as every other, I will tip one of my finest fedoras to her memory.

7 Responses to “You gotta look sharp”

  1. Kathy Watson April 9, 2020 at 12:52 pm #

    Mr Meatball, I always enjoy your posts! So reminiscent and appreciative! Enjoy your hat wearing this Easter Sunday! 🐣

  2. DAVE BLAKNEY April 9, 2020 at 2:14 pm #

    quite the dapper mini meatball. speaking of- how you liking that feather razor shave?

  3. Linda Mandarelli April 9, 2020 at 7:03 pm #

    I related so well to this as I had 8 brothers, who dressed in the garb you wrote of looked like the mini mafia. Happy Easter.

  4. John Gardner April 11, 2020 at 2:24 pm #

    I like your hat! How’s your garden? Still snowed in?

    • mistermeatball April 11, 2020 at 4:43 pm #

      Garden’s clear of snow and garlic has sprouted.

  5. smarinucci1970 September 10, 2020 at 2:45 pm #

    I LOVED IT BEING CHILD FROM THE 1950,s I CERTAINLY UNDERSTOOD THIS AND MISS LIVING TO SEE THE NEXT GENERATION, s LOOKING NICE AND CLEAN ESPECIALLY ON SUNDAYS . WHEN MOTHER’S LOOKED LIKE WOMEN NOT STREET hookers. WHAT A PLEASURE OUR STORY WAS .❣🍦🍧💯

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