The Perfect Gift For Every Musician On Your List

By BOB WIRE (photos by Dagan Martinez)

With Christmas creeping up like a Visa card-murdering sniper, it’s time for me to swoop in with my (more or less) annual list of gift suggestions for the musicians on your list. This year, I’m presenting a universal idea that will suit every musician you know.

Buy them a hat.

Now, before you go plunk down $38 for a flat-brimmed Red Sox cap, remember that you’re shopping for a musician. Even though he might be a diehard Sox fan who actually bleeds red, you want to show him that you’ve put some thought into this beyond “what’s his favorite sports team?” even if he has vowed to leap to his death from the top of the Green Monster over losing Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees. Plus, nobody wants to be reminded of Fred Durst.

When it comes to headwear for musicians, one size does not fit all. Nor does one style. You don’t buy a beret for your 22-year-old cousin who plays a seven-string guitar in a speed metal band. Chances are he has a righteous mop of hair hanging down to the middle of the demon skeleton tattoo on his back, and has no use for hats. Get him some black nail polish.

Save the beret for the middle-aged white guy who plays sitting on a stool. The simple black beret is a good choice to cover his bald spot, but only if he’s playing blues or jazz. Bundle it with some soul patch wax and a pair of Ray Bans. A fedora would also fit the bill. Beavered felt or straw, either one, as long as it has a decent width brim. That narrow-brimmed fedoras popularized by Justin Timberlake is called a trilby and should never be worn by anyone.

Bob Wire wearing a Fedora

Sure, we can play ‘Stormy Monday.’ But only of you sing ‘I’m Buying a Round For the Band.

Your sensitive singer-songwriter type might like a touch of the pseudo-urban troubador with the cloth newsboy cap, worn forwards in an unironic manner. The troubador travels a lot, and he can keep this particular hat in his glove compartment or overnight bag.

Another crushable headgear option is the simple bandana. The bandana is super versatile, suitable for a broad variety of musical genres. Folded into a wide band, it can cover the entire forehead from hairline to eyelids, as popularized by Axl Rose. This eliminates the need for botox, and the aging musician can spend that money instead on strip clubs and child support.

The bandana can be folded corner-to-corner and used to wrap the entire upper skull in a doo-rag, biker-style. This works well for balding metalheads, balding blues musicians, balding singer-songwriters, balding jazzmen, balding soul singers, and balding rockers. Or turn it around and put the knot in the front to affect a Tupac/Aunt Jemima vibe for hip-hip or rap.

Ladies can just bundle up their locks into a bandana scarf-style, which fits the Lilith Fair mold of lentil/Birkenstock/Mother Earth hippie-folk-Portlandia-drone-core. And it looks sexy as hell. It makes me want to give her my sandwich.

Bob Wire Emo Dude

Emo dude, or eighth dwarf?

Occasionally the doo-rag is paired with one of the most popular hats worn by musicians, the venerable cowboy hat. Pioneered by migrant farm workers, this combo is sported by alpha douches Bret Michaels and Toby Keith. It’s a look that screams, “If a high wind comes up and snatches the Hot Topic hat from my head, my baldness will still be covered!” In Michaels’ case, from what I can find from almost five minutes of Internet research, even if an F5 twister manages to pry the doo-rag from his melon, his full wig will remain firmly attached like a barnacle to a dock piling. Jeez, the guy has more shit piled on his head than Carmen Miranda.

The cowboy hat is best worn ironically, and you can see mashed-up shit-kickers on rockin’ noggins from Hank III to Sheryl Crow and, well, me. It’s part of my look, and like the Missoula honky tonkers The Idle Ranch Hands, when I play onstage I want to look like I’m in the band.
I’m not a fan of the cowboy hat on a metal guy. I don’t care if it’s black leather and festooned with skulls and chains and studs or whatever. Keep that shit in the bedroom, Rob Zombie. Only one metal guy should be allowed to wear a cowboy hat, and that’s Lemmy. The rest of you, like Vinnie Paul, just look a little desperate. This guy agrees.

Take it from me, just don’t buy your metalhead a cowboy hat. Top hat? Hell yeah. But it must be leather. Studded leather peaked Nazi cap? That’s fine. But only for Rob Halford.

Bob Wire wearing a baseball cap

Hello, Austin! How y’all doin’ tonight? Are y’all ready to country?

The one place you see fewer cowboy hats is, double-reverse ironically, country music. Talented country artists, and others like Luke Bryan and Eric Church, favor the good ol’ boy ball cap (sporting the logo of John Deere or whatever logo their handlers tell them is authentic), brim rolled tight like a 90s forestry major. Paired with a pec-hugging wife beater, the ball cap says to the country star’s fans, “I’m just like one of you!” Exactly. Driven by trends, ignorant of musical history. Thinks People is a news magazine and Brad Paisley is classic country.

Most of the cowboy hats that do appear on the heads of country stars are carefully maintained props designed to sell an image of authenticity, even when the songs themselves sound like cereal jingles and the southern accent they’re delivered with is as phony as the lumpy double-Ds on a drag queen.

Let’s face it: the cowboy hat is a bold choice, maybe best left to the musician. If you think he or she (EVERY woman looks great in a cowboy hat) would wear one onstage, give them a gift card to Murdoch’s. If a cowboy hat isn’t rock ‘n roll enough for them, they can use the card to get a pair of spurs. Or a whip.

Another hat choice that’s universally available is the knit hat. An honest-to-god ski hat, with a little ball on top and long braids hanging down the sides, would be a good choice for PBR-swilling hipsters who write tons of songs with their collaborator Mary Jane. It’ll keep their head from expanding too much during those 40-minute, single chord jams.

Bob Sire wearing a DooRag

I’m glad this thing is absorbent. I think my brain is leaking out.”

The floppy knit beanie worn on the back of the head has been the official headwear of the emo crowd since forever, but make sure you include a few bobby pins to help keep it in place.

The big, loosely knit hat, shaped like a purse and invariably colored red, yellow and green, is a fine gift for your reggae-loving stoner friend with dreadlocks. Nothing says “I’m chronically unemployable” like a giant, gaily-colored spider egg sac of hair ropes.

Finally, the simple knit beanie that has been popularized by Zac Brown is one of the most versatile gifts you can give a musician. It’s available in an endless variety of colors and patterns, and has so many more uses than just advertising a disinterest in personal grooming. It can be used to wipe the tears, sweat, blood and tater tot grease off a guitar. It can be used as a potholder when you’re taking that pan of ramen noodles off the stove. It can be used to keep your hands clean when you’re attaching jumper cables to the tour van. It can be wrapped around a fist to protect your knuckles when you break out the glass in your mom’s basement window so you can sneak into her house and steal the money from the ceramic pig on the kitchen counter and go score a bag of weed from that jazz guy who lives on the north side. They’re cheap. Buy two.

So make a musician happy this Christmas by showing that you’ve put some thought into his or her style. Make sure you get the right size so it’ll stay securely put and protect that noggin. I mean, who knows what goes on in that head of theirs.

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.


Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.


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