ELDER MUSIC: Singing Drummers
Dead Relatives' Junk

The Elder Hat Lady Cometh

Last May, in a three-part blog post (beginning here), I told you about my quest for a solution to my balding pate. It was this bad:

Ronni's Hair Loss

Today it is worse.

Back then, as I reported after much research, nothing regrows women's hair if the loss is not caused by a correctable medical or health problem.

The extremely minor success of women's Rogaine in a tiny percentage of women is not worth mentioning and anyone promising that a potion, treatment, vitamin or drug will regrow hair is lying.

Believe me, if anything really regrew hair, it would not be a secret; someone would already be a zillionaire from selling it.

After establishing that fact, I had to decide what to do because I was unwilling to walk around looking half bald. I'm not that liberated from convention.

I found a hair stylist who showed me how to use a light mousse and to take advantage of a cowlick to minimize the appearance of baldness at my crown and front hairline.

In the four months since, I've been doing that but as I told a TGB reader who recently asked how it's going, I continue to lose hair every day.

When I make the effort, I can sort of hide the bald place on my crown but it's getting bigger and thinner and I know I'm not fooling anyone. Even if I were, I don't really have the patience to arrange my hair so carefully every day and check constantly to be sure it hasn't been disturbed.

Obviously, I needed a new solution. In May, I had determined that my choices were:

  1. Find a hair stylist who can help
  2. Wear wigs
  3. Shave my head and go bald

Well, not so fast, Ronni. There is another choice: hats.

In some circumstances, I have always worn hats. On a shelf in a back closet, I have three elegant fur hats for cold, winter weather but no longer, in northwest Oregon, a reason to wear them as I had in New York City.

I do my best to avoid being in the sun for any length of time but I have some sun hats for the occasions when there is no choice.

Plus, three or four times during the farmer's market season here, a woman named Eli sells the most gorgeous, flowery sunhats she makes such as you would see at Queen Elizabeth's garden parties. They are reasonable priced and I've bought four so far.

There is also a small assortment of other hats I've collected over the years for rain, for mucking about in the snow in Maine when I lived there or just because I liked the hat.

So the only thing left for me to do was to make the decision to wear hats full time. Which I did, gradually, over the past three or four weeks until now, it has become second nature to grab one even to go to the mailbox or recycling bins.

Having settled into this new state of being, last week I filled the six-foot empty wall in the hall to my bedroom with hooks on which to hang my hats. It's decorative and easy to see them all when I'm making a choice for the day.

Hat Wall

Fall and winter hats are just hitting the stores and I'll be adding some, I'm sure, in the next few weeks. After trying one, I'm pretty sure that berets, in a variety of colors, will become my default hat.

I am already well known among the vendors at the farmer's market on Saturdays as the hat lady because the sun is bright at 8:30AM and a hat protects my face. So it's not a stretch to become the hat lady generally.

Besides, it's fun and it's a great conversation starter. Grocery checkout clerks, people in restaurants, even strangers in the street often stop to tell me they like my hat.

One day, a man tapped me on the shoulder to tell me that his daughter, the little four-year-old whose hand he was holding, was fascinated with my hat and had insisted they follow me at the farmer's market while she looked at it. We had a fine conversation and she tried on my hat. Oh, dear. Poor dad. I'm afraid that's going to cost him.

Sorry about the weird color of the photos below – I have not learned to compensate for all the fluorescent lights we now have in our homes and I hate taking selfies anyway. But here are four of my hats.

Four Hats

I'm also sorry I didn't get the angle right in the two shots on the right to better show off the decorations on those two hats.

I haven't figured out what to wear at home when I have guests. Probably scarves but that's going to be a tough learning curve – I've never been good at tying them.

The bottom line is that I will never again have enough hair to cover my head and I'm tired of wondering if my bald place is showing so hats are a fine - and fun - solution.

Maybe some day I will be confident enough to just shave my head and go bald but I'm not there yet and wigs seem a lot more work than hats. All I need to do now that I've made the hat decision is to visit the hair stylist now and then to keep what hair is left at a length that looks good with the hats.

Nobody tells us, when we're young, about all these little problems we'll face in old age and there's no instruction manual - we have to figure it out on our own.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On Other Places, Other Times


Oh Ronni, I think you are the perfect hat lady. (I like hats) Love your wall!
Looking forward to reading all the comments today!

I love the wall decorated with your hats. You look good in hats. I wish that I did but I think I have a funny shaped head that does not hold them well. I remember when it was mandatory for women to wear hats to church...not so much anymore.

I'd gladly wear the two on the left (top and bottom). You look stunning in all four. And with perfect hair length and (natural) color. My religiously observant hair-covering cousin wraps a large-ish square-ish scarf in seconds forming a gorgeous topping complete with stylish knot rakishly planted above the ear. She's busy, practical, and smart with no time for fussing. If this sound like something for you, I've already sent pics to your email address.

You look fantastic in hats! I have a similar challenge to you but have a large head and sweat profusely so hats would feel irritating to me. I wonder if anyone has used the thickening agents for hair? They are quite expensive and I am reluctant to try without recommendations. (Visions of myself walking around in a cloud of floaty bits or remnants on furniture, etc.)
Love the wall idea, I do that with scarves now.

Olga and others...
For many years, I too believed I didn't look good in hats - until a friend talked me into buying a gorgeous winter hat and a got a couple of compliments.

It's not that you look funny or odd; if you're not accustomed to wearing hats much, you just look different to yourself. After awhile, you get comfortable with it and see that you look just fine.

Not all hats, however. You do need to be discriminating; I look like dork in baseball caps.

You look terrific, plus I love hats. I've never seen a woman wearing a hat and thought, "Gee, she doesn't look good in hats." Another thought - I knew a woman who had very sparse hair. Her solution was to wear a bow (or something similar) in it. The end result was that she looked like a fun person, and it also said loud and clear, "I know my hair is thin, and I'm OK with that."

p.s. Plus I'm green with envy over your coming up with such a clever way of storing/displaying your hats.

lovely hats - I wear a baseball cap when I am out in the sun - my hair is thin - and will get thinner. At this point I have my hair cut fairly short and I do not have any "really bald" spots but no doubt that will come. My mother had very thin hair in her 80's and 90's and I am getting there.
Baseball caps work in some situation but in most I think Ronnie has the right idea - I need to start checking out hats and buying one or two for future use.

I'm at the same point as you. I need to protect my head from the Illinois sun. I have a collection, but I need hats in a larger band-size, and they can be difficult to find. There is no truth to "One size fits all," whether you are talking about clothing or hats. btw, I love the wide-brimmed straw hat, on the bottom right in your group of four pictures. The hat I want is one of the hats Meryl Streep wore in "Out of Africa." It has a huge brim! I'd like to have it in several colors. Here's to the return of the Hat Ladies!

A wonderful solution!

I too have very thinning hair so do wear hats alot...in fact I look better w/them on.
And at weddings I am usually the only one wearing a hat.

For the "what to wear at home" question, take a look at what African American women choose. These women are hat wearers extraordinaire and have made an art form of scarves. Many are sold with the folds already sewn in, alleviating the angst of figuring out how it goes together.

Many years ago, I wore a knit skull cap all winter. It gave me persistent 'hat hair' but I wanted it on all the time. Now I'm a bit warm blooded to wear a hat much.

As an aside, I love reading the post and comments here, Ronni, as I'm sure many others do. I feel like I get to have coffee with a bunch of chums every morning. This is a very pleasant way to start the day.

Someone asked about thickening products; right now I am using an inexpensive spray for fine, limp hair, that I got at Sally's. My hair seems much thicker with it. Probably shorter hair on top would help also, but I hate fooling with a high maintenance hair cut. It is blunt-cut on the bottom right now (not quite shoulder length), so it looks very thick there. I'm hoping that detracts a little from the top.

Love all the hats, and you look great! When I was a kid, my nickname was "Hat-happy". I still love to wear 'em (but a baseball cap make me look like some sort of anarchist.)

When I lost most of my hair temporarily from chemo at age 58, I did not want to wear scarves so wore a soft denim "tam", sort of like a beret but a bit deeper with more coverage whenever I went anywhere. It was very comfortable and cute, went with anything. No berets in your pictures, though! Post some more, please! You look terrific in hats!

Ronnie thanks so much for writing about this issue, it’s something I’m facing at the moment at 60 and can relate to everything you’ve written.

Love your hat display & you look great in all of them. The issue I have is what to wear in the evenings when going to restaurants or the theatre, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of choice, maybe wide silk headbands but not sure.

Sorry where did that "e" come from, apologies Ronni.

There's yet one other choice. My thinning is also pretty bad and getting worse. I wear a removable hairpiece. This is not a full wig but a small nylon mesh “skullcap” studded with natural human hair, which clips firmly onto my head and blends with the parts of my own hair that show around it. It wears like a comfortable hat, it can be washed and styled, and it improves my appearance no end.

(I’m wearing it in the photo that appears on my blog.)

You rock those hats, Ronni. And don't overlook those men's styles like Fedoras. They can really look good on you.

I see you have stirred us all up again, Ronnie. :) Wigs itch....but they are a good solution. They've improved too. I have two hats by "Smith and Hawkin" that I love, but I don't think they are available new any more. Try upscale thrift stores. :)

Love that hat wall. Both decorative and practical. My favorite hat is the top left on the wall, bottom left in the selfies. I've several hats myself, generally preferring brims and less frilly designs, but also have some warm knits or fake furs for winter. I almost stopped a woman in a parking lot the other day to compliment her on her hat. She looked very chic in a straw pork pie with a wide black band.

OOOHH, I want to see Ronni in a fedora! I bet she would be stylin!

Ronni -- your solution is wonderful! Bravo!

And thanks for showing off your new toys for your friends!

Virginia and Kathleen Noble...
Bottom right IS a fedora. I wish I'd taken a better photo so you could see the glittery pin decoration instead of the usual grosgrain or other kind of ribbon on men's fedoras.

You look good in hats! I'm glad they're coming back in time for thinning hair. Recently caught an episode of "Rhoda" on MeTV who used scarves and turbans that looked stunning.

[recipe for growing new hair removed]

Will search for Patricia's suggestion for African women's solutions - their use of colors and pattern is stunning.
And like Lauren, this is a wonderful site to begin the mornings. Thanks for it all!

Ronnie - Your hats rulz! I love the way you look in them and applaud you for your choices. As my old French teacher used to say, "formidable"

My husband, who has been mostly bald on top for years, never goes outdoors without a baseball cap. He has a great variety of them. I wear them sometimes, too. I can't wear hats with a brim, anyway, because they make my hearing aid whistle!
But your hat collection intriques me. Just from the decorative standpoint they are great fun.

Oh, Hattie - you make me laugh. Dear god, the problems we run into in old age - hat brims and hearing aid whistles. Priceless. Who woulda thunk it.

I love the hats. I've been wearing them to work this year since at 110 degrees, it helps keep one cooler when walking across the hot parking lots to school. Plus,over time, the hot sun does the same thing to white hair as it does to a newspaper left out in the sun. I would add, as a previous comment noted, scarves could serve the same purpose in covering up the thin spots.

Hats do something that no other piece of apparel does - they add distinction in all senses of the word. You look distinguished in your hats whereas without them you might be just another older lady with thinning hair.

Love hats but a black cap has become my trademark.It's fun, jaunty, both stylish and casual. Another solution I'm contemplating for some occasions is a wig. Used to wear one years ago and always looked well groomed.

Ronni, it's good to know we are all in the same boat. I check the back of my head every morning with the hope that some hair has grown back! No such luck. I like the hat idea since wigs are itchy for me. Thanks for putting the subject on the agenda.

I really like the four hats you showed me, Ronni. Had to look up the definition of "fedora" and found I do know that hat very well. Great ideas for anyone, thinning hair or not. :-)

LOVE the hats!!! They look wonderful on you! I, like another commentor, love hats but don't think they suit me so well. You've inspired me to give them another try. Thank you!

Style blogger, weighing in. Hats thumbs up. Hat in photo at 7pm, way thumbs up. Colors are fantastic on you.

Diane--That hairpiece in your photo looks really good! Thanks for sharing that tip.

I, too, am balding. I'm not quite to the hat stage, but have been looking down the road. My plan is a very short haircut and a Giants' baseball cap.

Ronni, I think you look great in hats! And I too love the display on the wall. Before I retired I worked in a library. A woman came in often that had very, very thin hair....I'm talking more scalp than hair. I always admired her confidence because she didn't try to hide it. She had short hair with a little natural curl that she just fluffed up and that look was "her." You have beautiful hair and if I were you, at home I would just enjoy my hair, thinning or not. Actually, my hair IS thinning! When I go outside I love to wear hats, because they are fun, and at my age I think I can if I want to, especially after having skin cancer on my face. LOL! and I have hearing aides! Thank you for bringing up the subject---so many of us have thinning hair and for a woman it is hard to think of becoming bald. Helps to know we aren't the only one!

I have loved hats since I was about 15, although I don't wear them much anymore - except in the sun. It hasn't gotten cold enough here for the last few winters to need one. I love the one in your bottom left photo.

For my thinning hair I take [product removed] Yes it helps but it takes several months to see any results.It certainly wouldn't hurt to try it.

I do love this reminder of the beauty and function of hats.
Once upon a time we used to wear hats! Now we need to wear hats again whether our hair is luxurious or not. Our skies are changing and our need for protection is growing. We elders can set a marvelous and beautiful example for the rising generations. The UVB component of UV light hitting our planet surface has increased dramatically, and it is the most damaging.

Ronni, I know a couple of older women who have their hair cut in what we used to call a butch. Or maybe a crew cut. Not the same thing as going bald, but would eliminate the "I'm losing my hair" look. And I know that people who have to have their head shaved for medical reasons often have their hair grow back thicker. Just a thought. And if I lose much more hair I may be following my own advice!

And I like the wide brim straw with the gorgeous apricot flowers ...

So... you didn't go with the skullcap idea I sent you some months ago... :) ... but your hats are delightful and I'm so glad you came up with something fun like that! Good ON ya', as they say in some far-off country!

(You could've smiled a TINY bit, couldn't you?!? Everything looks better with a smile. Ha.)

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