How strange it is that American Labor Day should have become the symbolic end of summer. More than any other over the past two months, it is this weekend that my straw hats and linen clothes are needed. And yet I am supposed to be thinking of wrapping these things up for the long, cold haul to Memorial Day? It is true that only the strictest traditionalists follow to the letter summer and its gear. But one can hardly deny, either, the melancholic top note that seems to waft in on even the muggiest breeze. Summer is ending, it cries, and with it, the need for those appurtenances that only now seem relevant.
One way of lessoning the ache is to spend some time in anticipation of coming seasonal changes. If heavier clothing of tweed, flannel, cashmere or heavy worsted needs attention now is a good time to begin giving it. These mends are easily done, though, and need perhaps a week at the most. Shoes take longer; a local cobbler may need a month, but if your shoes are heading back to the original maker (often overseas), they better make the voyage chop chop—two or three months is normal.
The most satisfying item to return to its maker, though, is a felt hat. There is a simple reason for this: no matter how well you wield a brush or manage the steam from a kettle, your skills fall short of the hatter and his laboratory. My hats return to Optimo around this time each year and when, in a few weeks, I am called to collect them, they appear as if newly made. It is often not until I try each on do I believe they are mine; a good hatter will remove dust, marks and loose threads, but not, somehow, the molded memory of your head.