The Cowboy Hardhat

Recently, I was watching a documentary about the Sundial Bridge, an amazing piece of modern architecture in Redding, California by the world-renowned Santiago Calatrava. During the film, dozens of the people involved were interviewed throughout the entire process, from inception to completion, talking about this beautiful piece of functional art. One such man, I’m guessing an important part of the construction crew, seemed to really like his hats.

During the opening celebration, he was wearing what I’m guessing was either a hat from his time in the army or from the local gun club (there was an assault rifle across the front), but every other time he was shown, he was wearing a magnificent cowboy hat. It just looked so regal, glistening in the sun, tightly secured to his head via ratchet adjustment straps, unmoving hardened plastic sitting atop his well-protected head.

Holy crap, this guy’s cowboy hat is a hard hat.

Suffice it to say, I had a hard time focusing on the rest of the film after this guy made an appearance. I mean, really, a hard hat shaped like a cowboy hat? I’m pretty sure you can’t just pick one of those up at the local hardware store. I spent the rest of the film imagining this elaborate back story about how the cowboy hard hat came to be.

In my mind, this guy — let’s call him Clem — had a moment of euphoria when this idea popped into his head. Now, construction workers aren’t often thought of as being the most fashionably-minded people, but Clem is definitely part of the minority here. His headwear helps define him as a person. It also hides his evermore embarrassing bald spot, but it’s mostly about personality. So one day on the work site, after waiting for all the other guys to pick up their hardhats and leave, Clem takes off his cowboy hat and begrudgingly puts on a hardhat. He thinks to himself, “If only my cowboy hat would stop heavy things from hurting my head.”

And that’s when a lightbulb appeared over his head. It fell, but he was wearing a hardhat, so no harm done!

Clem raced home after work that night to design a prototype, which really just means he superglued the suspension straps from an old hardhat to the inside of an oversized cowboy hat. It made him happy to hold the prototype in his hands, regardless of the fact that it served no actual safety purposes. His idea was really becoming a reality!

The next day, Clem went looking for manufacturers. He may have the idea down, but actually crafting the thing is an entirely different job. So Clem goes to manufacturer after manufacturer, each one turning him down and saying it can’t be done. Things were looking pretty bleak… until Calatrava himself, a master of engineering, decided to take the job. And so it came to be: a cowboy hardhat!

cowboy hard hat

Clem’s quest didn’t end here, though. Oh no. He may have a functional cowboy hard hat, but to actually use it on the job site, he would have to get it approved first. He asked the foreman for permission, who was hesitant at best, but referred him to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). He would have to petition the board for approval. A hearing was held where he fought with the veracity and intent of a top notch attorney, but was ultimately shot down.

That’s when he put on his gun club hat and pulled out his assault rifle. They gave him the okay pretty quickly after that.

Of course, this all happened in my imagination. As it turns out, this speculation was totally unnecessary because cowboy hard hats actually exist. OSHA approved! And you can get ’em right from! Somehow the .com was already taken. I gotta admit, for something so stubbornly old-west, I’m impressed that the cowboy hard hat site is so Web 2.0. Twitter and Digg social links? An RSS feed? Not too shabby, you inventive little country geniuses.

So cowboy hard hats exist. This begs the question: are there other types of hard hats? A top hat hard hat? A hard hat fez, complete with hard plastic tassel? Maybe that rice farmer type hat Raiden wears in Mortal Kombat? Perhaps for our hasidic friends, a hard hat yarmulke? The cowboy hard hat has really opened up the possibilities. But then again, why bother with anything else? Nothing tops the cowboy hard hat.

I bet Clem gets all sorts of pussy with that thing.