They say a child’s head grows to approximately 80 percent of it’s full size during the first year of life. If this is true, I must’ve cast a shadow like a Tootsie Pop as a child. There was a period as a baby during which I couldn’t hold up my head — try as they might, my folks couldn’t keep it off my shoulder. they would prop it up, and slowly, slowly, it would drop back down.
Developmental problem? Yeah. Too much head for my neck.
When I tried out for the high-school freshman football team in 1988, I weighed 125 pounds soaking wet, and only one helmet was left in the equipment room that would fit my head: an ancient, battered monstrosity with a lineman’s face mask that extended downward to protect a player’s throat, as well. It sat so far back on my head that I looked through the crossbars. The next fall we all got Air Helmets, with inflatable rubber bladders that allowed you to custom-fit them to your head. I received an extra-large helmet — and no air for the bladders.
I have a seriously large head. Not the biggest in the world. But probably the biggest you’ve seen …
It wasn’t until I took a summer job at Wall Drug after my second year of college that I understand the magnitude of the problem above my shoulders. I worked in the boot department, and occasionally would drift into the hat and western wear area to flirt with this gal, Jodi, who worked there. Her colleague, Cindy, tried to fit me for a hat one afternoon, and discovered there was only one hat in the place that fit me: a silver belly derby, size 8 long oval.
Let’s break that down:
- Silver belly is kind of a pale ghost gray or off-white. My friend Jinglebob says real cowboy hats can be any color, as long as they’re black or silver belly.
- A derby is, well, something like this. About what you’d expect a greenhorn Yalie to wear out West …
- Size 8 is big. Darn big. According to The Hat Site, the average adult male human head is about a 7 1/4, which is a circumference of about 22 3/4 inches or 58 cm. My head is a little more that 25 inches, or 64 cm, around. This makes it, in The Hat Site’s estimation, “Probably the largest head size you will ever find …”
- “Long oval” means I put the “egg” in “egghead.” Look at me from the front (now that I have, um, filled out in my thirties) and my head looks like a relatively normal grown man’s head. Look at me from the side, and it looks like a shaggy watermelon.
Size 8 long oval. This explains, with data, why they called me Warrior Dome during football season (claiming that we could suspend my helmet over the field in inclement weather and play beneath it) and simply Hed in the off season (which actually became my cartoonist alias for awhile in our underground student newspaper, Smoke Signals).
It also explains why, years later, when Bren, Gabe, and I decided to go to a Yankees game, I had to special-order a Yankees cap — and why it fits comfortably on my head, but has since stretched itself shapeless, front to back. It explains why the top item on my Christmas list last year was essentially a $30 stocking cap — the first I’ve found that would fit my head without stretching so thin that the wind whistled through it to chill my ears.
And it explains why, at a St. Paul Saints game a couple weeks back, I bought a cap for a team I had yet to see play ball. See, the Saints carry size 8 ball caps on site, and by some miracle of design, they shape themselves perfectly to my head, unlike the premium-priced New Era caps produced for Major League Baseball teams. For the first time since grade school, I have a cap that holds its shape (and doesn’t look like a yarmulke) on my head. The color’s nice; the logo’s classy; the tickets are cheap; and the games, kid friendly. I’m a Saints fan now. Sometimes a cap earns team loyalty, and not vice versa.