The Patagonia Hat
Protect your inner peace
Like plaque narrowing an artery’s passage, stalls and shops spill out onto the sidewalks and streets of Hanoi’s old quarter.
And anywhere the sidewalk isn’t hosting a restaurant with tiny stools and plastic tables we give to toddlers, there are motorbikes jammed so close together that a feral cat couldn’t chase a rat between them.
Each narrow street hosts a category. Chicken street for all things chicken, cooked and uncooked, from feet to embryo, beer street for brew-infused hangouts, and on it goes.
Produce. Seafood. Restaurants.
Most shops serve locals and travellers alike but one category specifically targets tourists: knock-offs of popular Western brands.
Patagonia. Arcteryx. The North Face.
The hip brands that the kind of people who travel to Asia wear. The kind of brands I’ve forked over thousands to for tents and vests and sweaters and backpacks.
So when I saw Patagonia hats, the ones that make hikers I pass on the trail look like real cool and real knowledgeable outdoors people, stacked high in every colour that I could bargain down to one-tenth of the price that the legit ones sell for, an unfilled gap open within me.
A gap only a Patagonia hat would fill.
I walked into the shop, fondled a few of them, pictured myself looking so cool walking down the street in my new, not yet sweatstained or sunfaded cap, and started bargaining with the shopkeeper.
Suddenly remembering my rule to wait five days before making discretionary purchases, I snapped out of my shopping smog and stepped out while the shop owner continued bargaining down the price to my back.
I started thinking as I dodged mopeds and sidestepped sidewalk restaurants back to my hostel…