When Is A Cap More Than Just A Cap?

KC Blog When is A Hat More Than Just a Hat Header Anthony with his grandfather and their stormy kromer hats

“It’s stormy, so I wore my Stormy!” my dad exclaimed as he trudged through the front door, kicking the snow off his boots. On this particular Christmas in West Michigan, a typical blizzard was passing through the area, inhibiting traffic and making us stay safely inside. I felt fortunate not to have to travel.

A Cap's Journey

As my dad dusted the snow off the red Kromer, he explained his fortune in receiving the hat as a gift from my Uncle Joe some years ago. It was a long enough time that I couldn’t recall when it happened, and in the years that passed, I hadn’t seen my father wear it very often. As a collector of hats, it felt like he often had just the right one for the weather, job, or outfit. Today on Christmas, it happened to be a red hat in a blizzard. A hat seemingly named for the weather itself. Fitting.

I picked the hat up and examined it after he removed his things and moved to place gifts under the tree. The red was seemingly unfaded. A Canadian flag pin on the front flap was most likely acquired from a hunting trip north of the border. The knot pulled snugly to ensure a secure fit. I pondered the last time my uncle most likely wore this hat. What was he hunting? Where in Michigan was he staying? Had I been there? Had our paths crossed without even knowing it? New footprints were forged in the spaces that only contained the memories of those whom we have lost through the years.

The thought stirred something in me. As an outdoor enthusiast who grew up exploring the Great Lakes region and spent their formative years outdoors, it was ironic that I never knew my uncle very well. When I was younger, I remember visiting him in Detroit and on hunting trips when he would come to see us downstate. A distant memory of a day driving around to outdoor shops in the area and listening to his favorite soundtrack. He passed unexpectedly when I was a teenager. I was at an age, like we all are, where we are at our most self-centered. Friends, sports, parties, school, etc. It all took precedence over almost everything else in our lives.

The irony is that we would be close if I knew him now. He could share his institutional knowledge of the outdoors and experiences from the past. I could share my current knowledge of parks, locations, and regulations. We could plan a fishing trip. We could hunt. One never really knows.

Unearthing Memories

But the truth is that even if he isn’t with us physically, he is with us in spirit. My dad still has the red Kromer hat with its Canadian flag pin. I now have a green Kromer that I purchased one small business Saturday from a shop near Milwaukee. My dad has the navy blue version he wears, and as for my uncle, well, on the Stormy Kromer website, it states that some people are buried with theirs. Wouldn’t you know it – they’re probably talking about my Uncle as he was laid to rest within his full hunting get-up.

Sometimes, a hat is more than just a hat. Sometimes, it’s heritage. Sometimes, it’s the thing that connects us to the past. An invisible string there all along, which we don’t realize until it’s ready to reveal itself.

I’m fortunate to still have time with my father. I still get to hear his stories of the outdoors, camping, fishing, and how things used to be, and in some ways are still the same, across the outdoors in Michigan. We get to spend our summer days fishing like we have for years. I get to relive his childhood adventures and my own as I plan my camping trips at state parks across the area.

I’m fortunate to own a Michigan-made product promoting a lifestyle and enthusiasm for the natural world. I’m lucky that even though I can’t see my uncle today, I can still feel him every time I walk out the door and into the woods. I’m fortunate to know that my father feels the same way.

A cap is sometimes more than just a cap. And that couldn’t be more true when it’s made right here in Kromer Country.

KC Blog When is A Hat More Than Just a Hat Anthony with his grandfather and their stormy kromer hats

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