Living in Michigan necessitates an ample collection of headgear choices. Winters can go from mild to face freezing in a matter of hours, and inversely, what works in the winter may boil your head in the fall and spring.
For the winter, I’d mostly been sporting the same Adidas lightweight performance stocking cap for so long that it was threatening the stability of my home life. The stocking cap has been my regular go-to tool for winter, but I’ve been needing something a bit less casual, but still highly functional. So when I encountered the Stormy Kromer at Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus, I knew I’d found the new tool of choice for days when I’m not going to be burning 4000 calories on cross country skis and my face was under no immediate threat from wind chill induced frost bite. I found a great everyday winter hat.
The first thing that struck me about the Stormy Kromer was the old school styling. It immediately called up a nostalgia for a pre-tech age, a pre-consumerist age, where your product survived by being rugged and functional, not by being cheap and throw-away. This is simply a convertible baseball cap, no doubt, but there is something about the shoe laces on top that says “this is no simple cap and you best read the owner’s manual because this is a long term relationship.”
This feeling was enforced when I observed the construction. It has an insulating wool shell, double layered and brushed on the interior, with a cotton lining. Its sewn as a 6 panel construction for the top in the tradition of a baseball cap. Interestingly, the top cap seams are turned out, which at first seems odd, but it keeps the uncomfortable seams from wearing on your head and creates distinctive lines on top. The stitching is heavy duty and all the high use parts are edged with twill tape for extra durability.
The ‘shoelaces’ are for adjusting the fit, which is pretty good already, considering that the hat is sold in 1/4 inch increments of circumference. The ‘shoelaces’ are not for tying to your chin, as some have suggested.
The part that sold me is the fact that the hat is convertible. Through a clever use of a folded cotton ‘hinge’ that connects the ear flap to the hat all the way around, you can pull down the ear-flaps from the cap without a break between the two. Warm ears when you need it, stored neatly when you don’t.
Details make the difference when considering a 35 dollar purchase. (even when it is being gifted to you) Lucky for the purveyors of the Stormy Kromer, I am a sucker for fussy Jacquard woven labels. I’m even more of a sucker for a Jacquard woven paragraph with lots of complex dead picks. (I’ll explain dead picks in another tirade, someday) This hat has two woven labels and some embroidery on the back to boot. Classy overkill, and I like it.
Here’s the text of the label telling the story of the Stormy Kromer:
George “Stormy” Kromer was a semi-pro baseball player and railroad engineer who always lost his hat to the gusts that blew through his locomotive. So he asked his wife, Ida, to put a needle and thread to one of his old baseball caps. The “Kromer” they created in 1903 is now legendary for its comfort, warmth, durability – and grip when the wind blows.
I swear I remember a Stormy Kromer on my grandfather’s head at one point in my life. I’m going to remember it even if it isn’t true. I also think I remember seeing one on Colonel Henry Blake’s head, or Ernest Hemingway’s but I can’t find photographic evidence of that either.
Stormy Kromers are made in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in Ironwood, MI to be precise.
I didn’t make a dime from this shameless endorsement.
This is a potential Stormy Kromer sighting from my family history, but I can’t confirm due to the fact that I can’t see the tell-tale shoe laces.