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February 3, 2004

Style with Diana Michelle Fox

I've never been a hat person. Well, almost never—there was that straw creation I wore incessantly the summer I was nine. However, since that infamous day when a gust of wind took it off my head and neatly deposited it in the fountain of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a hat has rarely skimmed my head. I maintain that hats, whether straw, wide-brimmed, or the ubiquitous knitted cold-weather cap, are basically unflattering, and it takes real talent (or one hell of a hat) to pull them off correctly.

You can see my cold weather problem here, which undoubtedly mirrors some of yours. I have survived 20 winters (18 in New Jersey and two in Chicago) without absolutely needing to wear a hat. Last week, however, was the breaking point. As the windchill dipped down into the negatives during this frigid week, the pain of walking through the cold forced me to reconsider my stance. When I contracted "frostnip" on my right ear, I knew I had reached the end of my rope. Frostnip is not nearly as damaging as frostbite, though it is a mild form of the latter. The skin freezes and thaws out, leaving a destructive path of redness and throbbing. Luckily, frostnip on the ear can be treated by warm washcloths and—yes—by wearing a hat.

It strikes me that although many believe only a hat can be used for covering the head, the winter cold brings with it an entire slew of options for keeping the head warm. There are two choices that are not hats, but should do a great job in warming the ears, those extremely sensitive organs of the head. Obviously, earmuffs are the first. While most of us left our earmuff days behind after elementary school, there are some adorable ones that are popular right now. Dena Products, for instance, makes furry, velvety earmuffs in light pink and blue, along with all the standard blacks, browns, and creams ($17.50, Marshall Fields). For the less frou-frou, 180's Activewear ear warmers come in black and gray (again, Marshall Fields, $20).

The headband is another ear-covering option. It is perhaps the least obtrusive as just the top of the head and ears are covered. The hair can easily show through. These come in a variety of colors and are at many stores. While they are reminiscent of the '80s—I want to listen to vintage Madonna and don a pair of leg warmers!—they are a definite functional solution.

Onto the hat, which comes in a myriad of colors and styles. The cable-style beanie hats this season can actually be pretty cute, especially at the North Face (beanie cap, $20, in blue, white, and gray). Guess? stocks a similar chunky marbled cap in azure blue for just $15.

The bucket hat is a more stylish option for the girl. Almost every shop stocks one of these cuffed wide-brimmed hats. Try the reversible stripe visor hat in pink, green, or blue ($24, Urban Outfitters), the camel angora bucket hat (Nordstrom, $28.90), or the faux-suede bucket hat in black or camel ($10, Marshall Fields). Or head to Forever 21 or H&M and get a really cheap one in pink or black, for both the hats and the pink-and-black color motif are sure to fade as quickly as they came.

The head wrap is the option that I'd love to try but don't yet dare. By head wrap, I refer to a very large scarf that is wrapped completely around the head. Add to that a giant pair of dark sunglasses to prevent blindness from the snow, and you can spend the rest of your day pretending to be Holly Golightly or Marilyn Monroe.

In conclusion, let me assure you that any of the above options can be purchased on the Internet. I was not about to go downtown this past Friday afternoon (due to the -25 degree windchill), so I did my shopping from the comfort of my apartment. My frostnip was almost a good thing, for I had—for once—a genuine excuse to hit the Internet shops! Hopefully, the above options will motivate the naked-headed to buy a hat or similar cold weather gear. Just think of it as preventative wardrobe medicine.

Do you have a style topic that you would like to see addressed? Contact Diana Fox, dianaf@uchicago.edu.