Politicians like to designate state symbols. In Ohio, for example, we’ve got a state bird (the cardinal), a state flower (the scarlet carnation), and a state tree (the buckeye). Our state is also, by legislative designation, represented by such things as tomatoes, flint, ladybugs, and the white-tailed deer.
Although state legislators seem to love designating state symbols — it’s pretty much a no-lose proposition, since the losing candidates for state bird or state insect are unlikely to complain — they’ve left some territory unexplored. It’s somewhat surprising, for example, that more states haven’t name a state hat.
Texas has led the way in this regard; some years ago it named the cowboy hat its official state headwear. But other states haven’t followed suit. That’s somewhat surprising, because officially designated hats can tell you a lot about a state. New York, for example, would be well-represented by the kind of pork pie hat that Rocky Balboa wore during his debt collection days in Rocky. Minnesota would probably choose the “mad bomber” fur hat. Florida might go for a sun visor with two beer cans with sip straws on each side. And California could opt for the kind of effete, snobbish beret that the Hollywood types wear.
If Maine ever designated a state hat, it would definitely be a ball cap. Everyone around here, male and female, seems to wear one. But it couldn’t be just any ball cap. No, it needs to be a nondescript, ancient, battered ball cap, preferably with some salt stains on it and a bill that has been repeatedly bent and features a fair amount of fraying. And the cap has to be in neutral shades — blue, gray, or khaki — and bleached of most of its color by repeated outdoor exposure. Once you’ve got the right kind of hat, you’ll never get rid of it. In fact, some ball caps you see have probably been passed down from generation to generation through the family patriarch’s last will and testament.
We’re still working on getting our ball caps into appropriate Maine shape. We’ll know we’ve done it when we wear one to town and one of the locals looks at us, nods, and says: “Ayuh.”