Some collections are just collections of objects. But often they’re also collections of stories. (There’s a short scene from the 1987 movie Throw Momma From the Train that illustrates this point really well.) That’s the idea behind a new book by Craig Colby, called All Caps: Stories That Justify an Outrageous Hat Collection.
I’m not a cap collector myself, but I’ve collected lots of other things over the years, so I can relate to the story-driven approach Colby’s taking here — it’s a good concept. Great title, too. And there’s an interesting backstory, which Colby explains like so:
A week into the lockdown in March 2020, I decided to wear a different hat every day until we were allowed to be together again. Every day, I posted a picture on Facebook of the hat I’d wear. I didn’t know two things, though. The first was how long we’d be locked down. The second was how many hats I have.
I started adding little stories with the hats. A little community quickly formed around the posts, sharing our lives through our love of hats. One gentleman, Jim, a Viet Nam veteran who lives in Texas, ran out of hats about 25 days in, but he didn’t want to miss out on the fun, so he started sharing whatever he could find — autographs, pictures, CDs, bobbleheads. I have never met Jim in person, but he wanted to keep the connection going.
After 125 days, I ran out of hats. When I made my last post, people who had never even marked a “like” on any of my posts started telling me how much they enjoyed the daily hat and story. A few people told me they were sad it was over. Jim told me it had helped him get through the pandemic. He also said I’m the best friend he’s ever had who he’d never met. Legitimate bonds had been created by sharing hats.
My cousin Julie, who writes mysteries, and my mother, who writes for the local paper, posted that I should write a book. My mother is 87 and I know she really wants to see me publish a book. I need to do this for her. Also, I realized that I was actually writing about all the connections in my life. Meeting my best friend, Dave, is in there. So is his death 15 years ago. So is the trip to NYC to take his sons to Yankee Stadium, something Dave told me he wanted to do in one of the last emails I received from him. Meeting my wife is in there. So is the relationship with my brothers and parents. There are fun, sad, uplifting, universal stories about life, death, love, loss and triumph. I was wearing a part of my life every day. People connected to that. They saw themselves in these stories.
Interesting, right? Colby’s daily cap project during the pandemic reminded me of my own Pandemic Porch Cocktails photo project (itself a collection of sorts) — many people told me how they sort of bonded with that project in 2020 and ’21, just as people apparently bonded with Colby’s cap ritual.
If you’re a serious hat geek looking for the ins and outs of deep-cut cap minutiae, that’s not what this book is about. It’s more like an autobiography told in 125 short, discreet story-chapters, each of which mentions a cap. Sometimes the cap figures prominently in the story; often it’s more tangential. Either way, it’s really more of a book about Colby than a book about caps.
I don’t mean that as a criticism — Colby is good company throughout this book — I’m just explaining that serious hat fanatics might not find what they’re looking for here. It’s a nice slice-of-life book, though, and books like that don’t often come with a big cap collection as a bonus. You can learn more about the book here, and it’s available here.
As a bonus: Colby has just published a blog post in which he predicts the 2022 MLB playoff outcomes based on the teams’ caps.