Ruined by a Stupid Hat.

It’s time once again to don the headgear-related half of the Languagehat brand, with Hannah Seidlitz’s New Yorker Talk of the Town squib “Jeff Tweedy Gets His Hat Back” (May 16, 2022; archived):

Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco, retired his trademark off-white Stetson about five years ago after he looked out from the stage one night and saw that a number of fans were wearing the same hat. “I felt like Madonna,” he said the other day, in Chicago. He’s played largely hatless ever since. But for Wilco’s twelfth studio album the band is returning to its roots (roots music), and the fifty-four-year-old front man is feeling ready to reinstate the image repertoire. The band will première all twenty-one tracks of “Cruel Country”––“I love my country, stupid and cruel”—at Solid Sound, the music-and-arts festival that it throws every two years at MASS MOCA: lawn chairs, vintage Luccheses, craft I.P.A. Tweedy had to complete the costume.

In search of a new hat, Tweedy wandered the leather-fragrant aisles at Alcala’s Western Wear, a vaquero haberdashery in Chicago, which has been his home since the nineties. He passed hats that, he said, were suitable for a villainous Mountie, R. L. Stine, Lemmy from Motörhead, and the photo booth at his cousin’s bar mitzvah. But he struggled to find something that felt like him. A lot was riding on this purchase. “My first live review comes out where I’m wearing a stupid hat,” he prophesied gravely. “ ‘Ruined by a Stupid Hat: It was a great show—can’t believe he wore that hat.’ ”

And if you don’t care about hats, here’s an xkcd featuring a linguist.


  1. J.W. Brewer says

    I once owned a pair of boots I acquired at Alcala’s, I think toward the beginning of my living-in-Chicago period, which was ’89 to ’92. But I never became a serious boot enthusiast, so languageboot would not be a cromulent nom de plume for me.

    EDITED TO ADD: I guess the only other Chicago/Jeff-Tweedy/Me nexus that comes to mind is that I used to go bowling at a place located at the basement level of the very distinctive looking building complex in Chicago whose upper floors are featured on that cover of that album by Tweedy’s band (as well as other, earlier album covers by other recording artists):

  2. cuchuflete says

    Have no idea who Mr. Tweedy is, but somebody who knows and likes him should pass the word: There is no head that is not improved by a boina vasca. De ala ancha e impermeable, of course. I have about sixty years of anecdotal evidence to support that claim.

  3. David Eddyshaw says

    I had a hat I bought on St Helena, but they set fire to it at Milan airport.

  4. Stu Clayton says
  5. I had a hat I bought on St Helena, but they set fire to it at Milan airport.

    Sure you did. Sure you did. Now drink from this paper cup for me, and let’s have you rest in this nice room with soft walls…

  6. DE, if you are writing poetry, I would like to read more of it. Putting poets in rooms with soft walls is bad taste.

  7. I believe DE implicitly. Milan is a scary place.

  8. David Eddyshaw says

    My statement is, in fact, quite literally true.

    (The best kind of poetry. William Carlos Williams, nothing.)

  9. Napoleon was a poet, too, in a way. So is every other Napoleon.

  10. John Cowan says

    I think what made us doubt the hat story is the the presence in it of the vague They, who do all bad things. Had you been (subjunctively) more specific, you might have been more plausible.

  11. David Eddyshaw says

    I have forgiven them now. I do not wish to expose them to the fearful Wrath of the Hatters. They should live out their remaining time in peace and penitent contemplation.

  12. I saw Wrath of the Hatters back in 1992, before they hit it big and became too commercial.

  13. They started in the ’80s as the Mad Hatters, but that was felt to be too twee. (Felt, get it?)

  14. Richard Hershberger says

    This has been my hat the past several years. It is starting to show its age. I have begun considering replacing it, but it likely will be a couple of years before I do. I am both sentimental and lazy.

  15. Stu Clayton says

    The Russo-Swedish War of 1741–1743 was instigated by the Hats, a Swedish political party … which became later known as the Lesser Wrath (Finnish: Pikkuviha).


  16. This has been my hat the past several years.

    That is a fine-looking hat.

  17. the Hats, a Swedish political party

    As seen here in 2003. (Amazingly, the link still works.)

  18. As for cuchuflete’s boina vasca: When I was a schoolboy, some 50 years ago, our macaronic for “merci beaucoup” was “mercy buckets”. And on an exchange trip to France, I learned that the Parisian schoolkid’s version of “thank you very much” was “Saint-Cloud beret basque”, which kind of put our childish “mercy buckets” to shame.

  19. Saint-Cloud beret basque


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