Some days I drive onto campus with a cap on my head. When I forget to take it off, I regularly get odd looks from my colleagues and/or the occasional question about whether I’m in costume. Something about “going native.”
Leaving aside the fact that I sometimes feel more like a native who has “gone academic” than an academic who has risked “going native,” there are already plenty of costumes on a university campus — college is, after all, a terrific time for young people to try on different identities.
I may in fact have multiple identities — *humanist* and *field researcher* for a start — but I do not wear a cap to feel more like one than the other. Rather I wear a cap for the same reason that I keep my hair short: Louisiana summers are hot. And bright.
The bill of a baseball cap is, of course, pretty good at shading one’s eyes, and that’s a good reason to wear a cap, but the real reason that I and so many people working out in rice fields or in metal shops wear caps is that when it’s hot you sweat. Caps are not necessarily all that cool, but their bands are good at catching sweat, and the fabric of the cap’s dome is good at wicking that moisture away. And if you keep several caps on a shelf in your shop or on the floor of the back of your truck, then you can always exchange a wet cap for a dry one and, in the process, feel somewhat refreshed, or at least like you have something of a new beginning, which itself is a fairly welcome feeling when you are up to your proverbial elbows in a dirty, greasy, gripping burning hot metal problem.
And that is why I wear a cap.