this thing's incredible

The Dual-Purpose Fan Hat I Keep in My Bag May Through October

The author in her hat that’s also a fan. Photo: Courtesy of Alice Gregory

A few summers ago while walking down Prince Street and studiously avoiding McNally Jackson, lest, God forbidden, I made eye contact with an acquaintance who also likes to read, I stumbled upon the most perfectly engineered product ever made. It was in the window of a Tibetan store that I had walked by hundreds of times over the past decade but never noticed. In its window was what looked to be a bamboo fan — the sort of thing you might buy for a friend’s kid at Pearl River — next to many other bamboo fans all lined up in a row, each spread slightly more widely than the last. The final fan in the series was not a fan at all but a hat. I had to know more.

Inside the store were dozens of fan hats, and the salesclerk demonstrated how they work. You open the fan further and further until the bamboo slats begin to strain, and then right before you think the contraption is about to break in half, you — very quickly — hook both sides to one another, closing the circle. The miraculous hat that emerges has a wicker-like top and structured cloth brim. There’s also a trusty adjustable chin lanyard. I bought a plain turquoise one for $20 and have kept it in my purse from May to October ever since. It’s compact and dual-purpose (fan plus hat) and the chin lanyard ensures it doesn’t blow off in the wind.

They’re apparently popular in China, but I’ve never seen anyone wearing one in America. Unacceptable. They should be as ubiquitous as Havaianas flip-flops or, I don’t know, Advil.

Just one of the many floral patterns this style comes in. [Editor’s note: This retailer will send one of a variety of patterns, so the print you see on Amazon may be different from what you receive.]

A few more sun hats we like

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The Dual-Purpose Fan Hat I Keep in My Bag May to October