~~~ The importance of semantics ~~~
First up, this is NOT a cowboy hat. The Bac Pac Traveller is made by BC Hats in Australia. Australia does not have any cowboys - they are called stockmen. The next person who yells "Yee-hah cowboy!" at me while I am wearing my hat is going to get a hefty trout-sized slap followed by a lecture on the difference between a stockman and a cowboy. So now you know...
~~~ How I come to own one ~~~
This is an embarassing and yet essential step in understanding my love for my hat, because without the backstory, I would not today own this fantastic item of headgear.
Once upon a time (just over two years ago actually) I worked in a girls grammar school which was full of "humourous" pre-pubescent young women who delighted in embarassing male members of staff whenever the opportunity arose. Shortly after beginning work at said school, one of my daughters returned from a Guide camp at which she had met some of the students from my new school and she mentioned that said girls had remarked upon the similarities in appearance between myself and a certain Johnny Depp. I tried to downplay the accusation, accused my daughter of being blind and tried to pretend the whole incident had never happened.
Unfortunately the same girl guides proceeded to regularly yell "it's Johnny Depp!" at me everytime I entered their classroom from that moment on. I started to wonder if a Wyndham-esque comet-related incident had blinded every teenage girl in the world and again tried to ignore the taunts.
Imagine the shame when my own wife took up with these occularly-challenged females, even going as far browsing Google Images in an effort to prove the similarities between myself and Mr Depp. She was particularly taken by an image of JD wearing a cowboy hat...
Fast-forward a few months and whilst enjoying a short break at the legendary Europa Park in Germany, Mrs Ben convinced me to try on a hat in one of the giftshops. Despite my squirming protestations, I ended up with a BC Hat on my head and a credit card receipt for Euro70 under the guise of an "anniversary present" for me?
~~~ The hat itself ~~~
So, now you know the backstory, on to the hat itself. The BC Hats Bac Pac Traveller hat is designed for the fashion-conscious gent who believes a hat is a must, even when travelling conditions are not conducive to head gear. The Bac Pac Traveller is actually a work of genius in that it has been designed with a flexible wire sewn into the brim so the hat can be crushed into a small space when not being worn, but spring automatically back into shape when freed.
The hat is made from "specially tanned top hides" and comes in brown and black varieties. I personally own a black one which comes in a suede finish. The brim is made from a single piece of leather, the crown is constructed in two parts, with a tear-shaped upper double stitched onto the lower crown which is in turn double-stitched onto the brim. There is a single-stitched seam running down the back of the hat, and each side of the crown is fitted with two breather holes which can also be used to secure a chinstrap (should you be that geeky). There are two press stud fasteners holding the supplied hat band (a matching black leather plait) to the crown; this can be substituted for a hat band of your choice. Anecdotal evidence shows that those who replace hatbands tend to look like white pony-tailed, one man band-type hippy weirdos as they always seem to favour a strange pastel-coloured floral neckerchief-scarf thing...
The leather has been treated so that is water resistant and it fits very snugly on my head. The inside features a shiny, non-absorbent half-moon of leather to prevent my (occasionally) sweaty head from damaging the leather. There is also a large gold-coloured print on the inside of the crown proudly proclaiming the hat is made by BC Hats ("The original and simply the best") from genuine steer hide.
~~~ My experiences ~~~
Because this is a travelling hat, it features a 2.5" brim which is narrower than many of the other hats in the BC range and at times this can prove problematic as the narrow brim does not provide the best shading for one's eyes.
The water-resistant treatment and double-stitching is excellent as this hat keeps me dry and the rain out of my eyes in all conditions. Who needs an umbrella anyway?
Bright sunshine has somewhat faded the black dye on my hat which is a shame, but also goes to show that we do sometimes get nice weather here in England.
The crushable nature of the hat is one of it's greatest strengths (it has withstood many attacks by my young boys) and also one of its greatest weaknesses. The crown seems to sag on one side and I have re-inforced the front of my hat with a chinese take-away menu stuffed inside the sweat band so that the sag is reduced.
Because this hat has been designed to be crushed, there is little maintenance or care required - the most I do is give it another coat of scotchguard every once in a while to ensure the water-proofing is maximised. It is also easy to wipe dirt off the hat with a damp cloth.
Frequent handling at the front of the crown (when putting on and taking off) has removed the suede finish and left a quite shiny area which looks quite different to the brim. This does however add to the individual charm of my hat.
When I run out of pocket space (see my other reviews) I can upend my hat and use it as a basket for transporting yet more goodies.
My head stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer, dry in the wet and dry in the sun. Plus I think I look pretty cool.
Euro70 is expensive. Really expensive if you do not wear hats and have not ever considered doing so before. That said, the construction of the Bac Pac Traveller is first class and the materials used are fantastic quality. I am expecting this hat to last me a very long time. Maybe forever?
There is always an idiot waiting to yell "Yee-hah!" at you. Except in Marrakesh; there the locals will yell "Big Boss Man" or "Hey John Wayne!" as the fancy takes them.
~~~ So...? ~~~
Hats are relatively forgotten phenomenon nowadays. Two generations ago, a gentleman of any social class was not properly dressed without a hat but the advent of the motorcar put paid to headgear of all persuasions, being it dress or practical. Mind you, two generations ago, people would probably have been suitably well-educated in hats to have been able to tell the difference between a stetson and a stockman...
I never intended to like my hat, and I thought it might disappear quietly into a cupboard to be forgotten in time. However wanting to be a good husband I dutifully wore my hat until over time I fell in love with it. Now that I love my BC Hat, I rarely leave home without it and when I do, I actually feel as though there is something missing. I never need an umbrella, my head is always dry and my glasses stay dry, protected from the elements thanks to my hat. There are enormous practical benefits to wearing a hat (you cannot take an umbrella everywhere with you, I've never had a cold since buying my hat, I keep getting mistaken for an A-list celebrity) and I would strongly advise the younger generations to ditch their beanies and hoodies and instead invest in a real hat. This one looks like it is going to last me a lifetime.
~~~ Footnote ~~~
Despite my attitude to my hat changing, my wife's eyesight has not improved; she still maintains I look like Mr Depp even long after the initial comedy value has worn off. Please give generously to the RNIB - there is a large group of young women in Essex relying on you.
Treated with waxes and oils to guard against the elements. Brim size 2.75in.