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Jessie Veeder, Published December 08 2012

Coming home: No apologies from the hat, boot crowd

I know it’s not the hat that makes the man. I know it’s not his boots or his button-up shirt or the buckle on his belt that truly reflects the character behind the clothing.

I tried to remind myself of this last week as I packed my bags in preparation for my trip to Fargo to play music. I told myself that the mud stuck to every pair of my favorite boots didn’t say anything about where I came from or who I was. I washed the red scoria dirt off of my car, got my hair cut, packed my dangly earrings and hoped no one would notice the giant crack in my windshield as I followed the interstate east to the big town, vowing the whole way I would work on updating my wardrobe once I got there.

I think we all have these moments in which we try to see ourselves through the eyes of others in an attempt to get a grip on the person we appear to be.

At 29 years old, I admit that most days I’m OK with my unruly hair and collection of boot-cut jeans, but often in my life I’ve found myself on the eve of a two-week tour, a trip to Vegas or a weekend in Minneapolis, cursing my closet and wondering why I don’t own red high heels, a perfect black dress or anything with sequins for crying out loud.

Because Lord knows you need sequins in Vegas.

But there I was in Fargo with meeting plans, dinner plans, an important performance on the schedule and a suitcase full of clothes I suddenly didn’t find acceptable.

So I walked those streets popping into boutiques and shops on the hunt for something that could help me blend in with the pretty women sipping coffee in pea coats and high heels, the hipster girls behind laptops and funky glasses, or the trendy ladies with statement scarves browsing for organic cookbooks, suddenly so very aware that I was none of these women.

I glanced down at my red boots on the pavement, noticing how they tucked up nicely under the hem of my jeans forgetting for a moment that none of this mattered.

The next day my family rolled into town in a dirty Ford pickup and out stepped my beautiful mother, my pretty little sister and the only two cowboy hats in town resting regally on the heads of my husband and my father.

With as much confidence as my mother in heels, those men strolled down the brisk city streets, into music stores and coffee shops, restaurants and bookstores, stopping to hold my mother’s purse as she gathered her things or to comment on a shirt my little sister picked out.

Under that hat my husband laughed as a woman in a downtown bar expressed her appreciation by grabbing it and placing it on her head, oblivious to the rules about touching things like that.

Under that hat my father stood beside me as he played his harmonica and harmonized on the stage that Saturday night to the songs I wrote about home.

When searching for me on the busy city streets that evening, my friend laughed as she described those cowboy hats as small beacons of light showing her the way.

And although I know it’s not the hat on its own that makes the man, I do know that under those brims are two people who will never make apologies for who they are. And despite my insecurities I understand that the mud stuck to my boots doesn’t say everything about the girl who decided to wear them to town, but it does tell you something.


Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com. This article is written exclusively for The Forum.