The Sexual Orientation of Hats

The other day, while I was out for a walk with little Mr. S and Little Ms. M,  I stopped for a cup of coffee and a pastry at one of my favorite local bakeries. It was a nice day, so rather than try squeezing my huge double stroller between two of the inside tables, I decided to sit outside. After a few minutes, a woman walked up to me and said, “You know, last week there were two men here with their little baby.”

I have no doubt this was true (this is the San Francisco Bay Area, after all), but it really doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’m married to a woman, and the route my kids traveled to get here is the typical one. The mysterious thing that inspired this woman to deliver her news was something that has been true about me since . . . well, since puberty, probably: everyone thinks I’m gay.

This isn’t a complaint. Men tend to express physical attraction directly and unambiguously, so a single walk through the Castro is enough to boost my ego for a week. It does, however raise the question of what about me is so fabulously gay1. I have posed this question to many of my friends and acquaintances at various times in my life. The answers can be summarized as follows2:

  1. “You’re in good shape, but you’re not a body builder.”
  2. “You have good personal hygiene.”3
  3. “You listen to Cocteau Twins.”
  4. “You’re well-groomed.”4
  5. “You have good posture.”
  6. “You listen to Prince. And you dance to him.”
  7. “Your fingernails are clipped.”
  8. “You’re nice.”
  9. “It’s because of your hat.”

That all of these items have been distinguished as gay signifiers is worth an entire dissertation, but as this is a knitting-focused blog, it’s number nine that’s under consideration today. That quote comes from my friend A, who elaborated on this point by explaining that a gay hat is identifiable by being:

  • hand-made
  • a skull-cap

I wanted further clarification, but this conversation happened over IM while we were both at our respective offices, and A was suddenly called away to do actual work, so I was left with the sudden realization that Halfdome (pictured above, middle) is pretty much the gayest hat ever designed.

I started looking at all my hats, like Jared Flood’s Turn-A-Square, which is my new favorite hat pattern. The first one pictured above was knit by me, and I found that I didn’t like the bottom edge covering my ears. So, Z knit one for me (the third one pictured above), and she began the decreases one and a half inches sooner. And you know what? I prefer that one. I just plain old don’t like hats covering my ears. And if my friend A is to be believed, this makes me as gay as the proverbial goose.

Except that I . . . you know . . . like women. Especially the one who knit hat number three.

So what do  you think? How gay are these hats? What would your gaydar (assuming you have one) say about a guy wearing these hats?

1 And despite the subject of this blog, I assure you it’s not the knitting. Do I walk around knitting all the time? Although I’d get my projects done much faster if I did, I can assure you that I do not.
2 This list should totally piss you off, especially if you’re a straight guy. Nothing like a bunch of stereotypes to totally make your day.
3 This one is debatable, now that I have two four and a half-month old twins.
4 So is this one.


  • Safranit says:


    You had me laughing so hard! I hope halfdome isn’t the gayest hat…I’ve made one for my dad and I’m completing one for my uncle…neither are gay (as far as I know)…

  • Rose says:

    Oh dear Jesse,
    This post totally makes my day in its hilarity. Your false gay emissions are a haphazard of being truly yourself, but I’m glad that you are utterly Jesse. I don’t know if I’d call Hat #3 the gayest hat ever made. I’d probably edge more towards this hat as per the gayest hat ever:
    However, I think Hat #3 looks best on you.
    Personally, I never thought you were gay, but I know for a fact you triggered a few fellow campers’ gaydar falsely. Maybe it was because you read a semi-sexual poem about a woman my second year. Or maybe it was because I was under the impression that something was going on with Karen (bless her heart).
    Stereotypes are hilarious and those who live and believe them as the only truth live a lonely sheltered life.

  • Kate says:

    super funny and great to hear you work this issue out
    can i add, maybe it got left out because it was so darn obvious:
    10. “You knit”

  • Kate says:

    i would also add:
    you might have something with the not ear covering bit
    and its fair to add that turn-a-square was designed by a gay knitwear designer (just putting that out there)

  • Trish says:

    This is so funny! Okay, you have your gay hats…I have my gay glasses. No lie. Whenever I have worn glasses in the last 20 years of my life I have been hit on by the most gorgeous lesbian women. I’m with you, it’s an ego boost. Especially when you’re pushing that ginormous twin stroller down the street……

    For the record, I think pretty much any cute guy in S.F. is considered gay until really proved otherwise. You are smart to take it as a compliment.

  • mamie says:

    something about the ears in two and three….though i know you love the style and the one that made three. a little gay. your list was freaking hilarious. and i think it is funny that the lady walked up and said what she did, not something about the twins. usually all the approaches in public are about the twins, right?

  • Trish in MD says:

    Ok… to not look like it’s a gay hat I think you have to be willing to cover your ears and look like a dork. The dorkier, the better. Or, ok… a deeper rib, that you can fold back on itself?

    Ha. I don’t care. Your hats are cool. And yes, #3 looks the best! Wear them all well.

    Trish (another one!)

  • dina says:

    I don’t think any of the hats look particularly of that bent… I like them all, and have straight and gay acquaintances in my world who would agree that they would happily agree to be the recipient of any/all of them.

    Here’s the thing… In the course of my life I’ve met some truly amazing men – who are attractive, articulate, artistic, well-groomed – and here are the killers – good communicators and love people genuinely – i.e., know how to listen and have a discussion with someone – not just blast someone with their opinion/agenda, etc., and gift of themselves generously – i.e., just plain out love well. Why is it that people feel like men with these qualities must automatically be tagged as one sexual orientation or the other? Can’t they just be accepted as the gifted, kind, generous men that they are?

    I dunno – but I’ve got to say thanks for your blog – I recently stumbled upon it and am enjoying it tremendously. I’m working on a project to knit items for children at an orphange in a corner of the world that has seriously wicked winters – and I’ve been inspired to try putting together some patterns appropriate for those kids. Thank you!

  • Faith says:

    You have a metrosexual style, and this makes people assume you’re gay. I almost never assume — I grew up with a guy who was a metrosexual before there was a name for that (I think…or else I’d never heard of it), and he was definitely straight as well (and is now married). People just like to jump to conclusions.

    With me, people often ask me if I’m a babysitter or some sort of childcare worker when I go out with my four children, because I look “too young” to have given birth to that whole group of little people. I’ve had older ladies give me nasty looks, thinking I’m just another “reckless teen mom”. I’m (almost) 29. Damn assumptions. (Although looking too young might be better than looking differently oriented…not sure.)

  • Christopher says:

    I’m gay and I know that all gay men do not look alike. We are people – individuals. Not all gay men are well groomed and impeccably dressed. Why would all straight men be expected to dress the same and look alike?
    I tend to get annoyed when I hear that straight men or women say that they don’t like it when gay men or women hit on them. Is it really that bad for someone to find you attractive? I get hit on by striaght women. I think its flattering.
    It takes a well rounded and amazing person to do what they like in this would and not fall into sterotypes, gender roles and peer pressure.

  • Elemmaciltur says:

    Hehehe, the first time I stumbled across your blog and skimmed through it, I thought you were gay. No idea why though. Until I found out that, well, you weren’t.

    No idea about the hat exuding gayness though.

  • John says:

    Yep, those hats are “gay” looking. And gay men do marry woman, have sex with them, and have children.

    Happens all the time.

    So you’ll probably be dealing with the gay assumption for a long time.

  • Renne' says:

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that……….

  • LW says:

    something about the ears in two and three….though i know you love the style and the one that made three. a little gay. your list was freaking hilarious. and i think it is funny that the lady walked up and said what she did, not something about the twins. usually all the approaches in public are about the twins, right?

  • Angie says:

    Jesse, Funny stuff! I have a very close gay friend, and I’ve never seen him wear a hat anywhere close to those exhibited in your designs – though I can’t rule it out for other gay men? One of the hugest stereotypes ever of gay men are that they’re all super good-looking as you are (hey! go with that one!!!), however I’ve been to some of their parties…there ARE a few stragglers at these events after all! So the old formulas are NOT foolproof! Don’t give too much credit to the old stereotypes or the old stereotypers!

  • Angie says:

    Oh, and I think if we’re really going to pick this apart, we need to go back and study #12 John’s comment…I think he’s probably married, has 2.5 kids and will be divorcing his wife as soon as his version of your hat #2 is finished! hehehe

  • Heather says:

    OMGosh, Jesse, I KNEW you were a Cocteau Fan! Something about you just made me think it…I was actually sitting here while I posted my first comment about the “peapod” sweater pattern, and I was thinking to myself: when he sees my Ravelry id on the post, he is instantly going to think, “oh, Cocteau Twins fan”. LOL I am probably the BIGGEST Cocteau fan there is, and don’t know too many people who listen to them anymore, since I don’t speak to any of my old friends anymore. But, that doesn’t make you gay for sure; most guys that I knew who listened to them were VERY straight.

  • Katie says:

    I think you’re eyebrows identify you as straight (they’re not plucked at all, lol) so don’t worry about the hat.

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