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Hats for stylish winter bike commuting

Posted Jan 22 2012 10:47pm
Mostly a year-round bike commuter, I haven't yet overcome my fear of taking to the street on two wheels when it is thick with ice and snow.  The last three weeks have been warm enough to melt move of the ice and snow so I've welcomed the opportunity to be on my bicycle.  Despite the warmer temperatures, the Northern Arizona climate remains cold, especially in the morning and after 5 p.m.  Keeping warm on the ride to and from work remains the biggest challenge.  One of the first things I learned about surviving the winter at 7000 feet was the importance of keeping your head warm.    I developed a taste for hats in college but usually felt a bit self-conscious about wearing them since I rarely saw other people with them.  However, everyone in Flagstaff wears some kind of hat in the winter so now I had the perfect excuse to indulge myself without feeling like I was standing out.
Black felt cloche purchased in 2010 at Rainbow's End, Flagstaff.
Since moving to Arizona, I've taken to wearing hats regardless of the season.  During the winter, I find them essential for keeping warm.  I purchased the above hat, a cloche, last year at Rainbow's End. Unlike a lot of felt hats I've tired, this one fits securely and deeply on my head without crushing my hair; I've never had a problem with it blowing off in the wind as I do with a few of the little straw bucket hats that I favor once spring arrives.  I wear the cloche several times a week because it is simple, with no unnecessary flourishes and goes with just about every coat or jacket that I own (expect for skiing and other sports jackets).

I know a lot of riders wear a balaclava on extra cold mornings but I haven't had much luck with them.  The one that I purchased interfered with my peripheral vision so I abandoned it.  Instead, I just wrap a wool scarf around my neck, wrapping it so that it is just loose enough to pull up over my nose if the air is especially frigid.   My father picked up the one in the previous photograph for me several years ago in Scotland.  Again, in Flagstaff's chillier climate, I usually am wearing some sort of scarf all year long, depositing it in my bike basket or pannier if the mid-day temps climb much past 70 degrees.
Black wool beret purchased for about $15 at Incahoots in 2008 in Flagstaff.
My other go-to hat is a black, wool beret.  I've worn a beret on and off since college.  Again, the beret is just a fashion staple that really doesn't go in or out of style.  If, like me, you have a style obsession with all things French, or Audry Hepburn, you probably own a beret.  This one is lined and comes with a thin cord under the black leather band on the rim to I can secure it.  I hadn't worn my beret this season until a few week ago when we went to see Martin Scorsese's new film, Hugo, in which one of the main characters wears a beret through almost the entire picture.  Utterly charming, so of course, I had to pull mine out.  Again, goes with everything - especially my new pea coat.  A good wool beret can be expensive but I found this one at vintage clothier Incahoots downtown.  I think I paid about $15.  A steal since I had planned to order one on-line for about $85!

Wool herringbone cap from Poor Little Rich Girl consignment shop in Phoenix.
Here's another re-sail hat I found last year in Phoenix.  Not sure what you call this style.  It sort of looks like a cycling cap.  Any guesses? Also wool and right around $15 at Poor Little Rich Girl in Phoenix.  This one is just a bit snug on my head so I only wear it on the coldest days when I know my head won't sweat.  Since I keep my hair in a fairly short bob anyway, it doesn't do much damage.  Again, about the price, you don't have to pay a lot for a good hat.  I see great, almost new hats in vintage and consignment shops all the time.  People either wear hats or they don't.  Many would like to wear this or that hat, thinking it would make a great fashion statement, only to buy it and have it sit unused on a closet shelf because they don't feel "right" in a hat.  The remorseful buyer ends up sending it to Goodwill or consignment. All the better for me.

Wool, cable cap from Eddie Bauer.
Ali MacGraw made the knit cap a fashion-do some 40 years ago in Love Story.  It's taken me just about that long to appreciate it though.  My mom was forever admonishing me to wear a knit cap in cold weather when I was growing up, often just stuffing it on my head in a random fashion, only to have me pull it off in frustration with what she was doing to my hair.  Ugh!  The bob is a great cut for the knit cap since it usually just keeps the style in place on a ride to work or when it's really windy.  I can also wear it under my bike helmet when I'm biking after dark, the one time I consistently wear a helmet.  I love this soft, brown cable cap.  I purchased it at a downtown Eddie Bauer in Chicago the weekend Bob and got engaged, along with a matching scarf and gloves after arriving unprepared for bitter cold and wind.  Unfortunately, I left the scarf on an airplane a few years ago but I still enjoy the cap. 
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