Hats, caps and personalities

- Tae Bratton wears many hats.

"Maybe like 40, 50," he said.

Tae works at SoHo's Hat Club, where he sells dozens of varieties of baseball caps to fellow hat connoisseurs.

After one of these hat-men selects a new one to add to his collection, he then marks the lid as his own, starting at its tip.

"I put my fingers on the first stitching right here," Hat Club manager Justin Farnham said, demonstrating on the new Brooklyn Islanders cap. "Want to give it a little curve."

Justin says, outside of work he gives away more hats from his personal collection in a year than most people own.

"I don't put 'em in a closet," he said, "because that would ruin a lot of my hats."

What constitutes a ruined hat varies depending on the head of the beholder. Hat Club's customers curve and flatten, dirty and refuse to remove their new lid's tags.

"I don't know why I leave the sticker on," one man said of his flat brim. "I've been doing it for years."

"I would say early 2000s," Tae said, "[leaving the tag on] was just a way to let people know you had new gear, new stuff, it was fresh, it was clean, but times change."

Tae, Justin and the rest of the be-hatted agree: There is no wrong way to cover one's head. One can pull a half dozen different looks out of a single hat just by varying how they situate the headpiece on their dome.

"A lot of people like to pull the hat backwards," Goorin Bros. hatter Edwina Garcia said, "and it completely gives it a different style."

Garcia sells handmade hats crafted by the same family for the last 121 years. She says -- like the stripes and spots and markings of animals -- how one wears their hat projects a message to all who see them.

"You want your outfit to pop," Garcia said.

"It's like the icing on the cake," a man wearing an Oakland Athletics snapback with the sticker still on the brim. "It's the cherry on top."

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