Metro 101

Richard Herring wonders if wearing a sombrero could cure all sadness

Friday 7 Feb 2014 
A sombrero is never not fun, right? If you see someone wearing a sombrero and they’re not in an old Western film, then you know you’re going to be in for some laughs.
I was pretending to do some writing in a café when a man walked in wearing a sombrero. It’s not a place you expect to see a man wearing a sombrero, so the juxtaposition made me smile.
Knowing London as I do, I have been conditioned not to catch the eye of anyone who looks a bit odd in case they stab me in the face with a knitting needle, but the sombrero overrode that fear. He was wearing a sombrero! And the other customers, who’d usually avoid interacting with anyone else, were catching each other’s eyes and half-smiling. Because of the sombrero.
He was a sad-looking, downtrodden figure and in need of help, which made me feel sad. But then I looked at the sombrero again and it made me smile. It was so confusing.
Then the man opened the toilet door and started shouting incoherently about germs and drugs and having a proper panic attack. It should have been scary but the fact that he was wearing a sombrero still made it all a bit surreal and light-hearted.
Everyone in the coffee shop was caught between worrying about being stabbed in the face with a knitting needle and being amused by the incongruous sombrero. I’ve never seen an item of clothing with such power to confound. People were smirking while this man had a breakdown. It made me wonder if sombreros might be the cure for all sadness. If your father is dying in a hospital bed, his breath rasping, his skin pallid and grey, you’d probably feel sad, but put him in a sombrero and, voilà, you can say goodbye to him with a smile on your face.
The government doesn’t seem too concerned about the mentally ill people it is leaving on the streets to fend for themselves but if they were all put in sombreros, then no one could be cross about the unchristian social injustice. We’d be sad to live in an uncaring world but then we’d see the sombreros. Come on, David Cameron, get on the telly and channel your inner Marie Antoinette, proclaiming:
‘Let them wear sombreros.’ Hiding all our problems under sombreros might be what gets us out of our economic crisis. It will at least get the sombrero manufacturers out of their economic crisis.Later in the week, in another café, I encountered another gentleman with unconventional headwear. He was wearing a pyramid on his head. It wasn’t a solid pyramid (at least that would make sense), just the edges with the faces left empty. It was mildly amusing, though it was no sombrero. And this man was calm and unthreatening and, apart from the pyramid on his head, unremarkable, so there was no additional frisson.
Apparently, he believes wearing a pyramid on his head will boost his memory and protect him from pollution. It’s worth a go, isn’t it? If it works then he’s a clean-lunged genius, if it doesn’t then he gets some odd looks. You might think it’s crazy but people thought it was crazy to try to cover up all our problems with sombreros.
In an increasingly homogenised world, it’s good to see someone unafraid to be eccentric. The world is full of people who believe in magical, invisible forces and display their belief via their clothing, jewellery, beards or hairstyles – what makes the pyramid guy so different?