Anyone who knows me knows that they are likely to see me wearing a fedora hat whenever I am making a public appearance. I don’t wear one when I’m walking the dogs or cooking hamburgers on the grill. I do wear one whenever I travel or am in a place where I am likely to meet people. Nowadays the short-brimmed fedora is making a comeback, but I will always sport the two and a half-inch brim felt version, thank you very much.
So, what’s with the hat, anyway? Well, for me it has multiple meanings. The first and foremost one is that it is a tribute to my grandfather (pictured above). A funny and affable man, he always sported a fedora even in the dead of summer. He died when I was still in high school and I still have his last fedora put away as a keepsake.
A look through my high school yearbook reminds me that I wore a fedora in my first school play. I played Louie the janitor and insisted that the character sport a cheap hat from JC Penneys (lower left picture). I also owned one throughout my years in the Army (second from the left), at my wedding (third picture), and own several fedoras today including a Panama hat for summer months (right hand picture).
At every turn, this style of hat served my main purpose: stand out from the crowd. Personally, I prefer blending in with the crowd, however in my chosen work (actor, filmmaker, and public speaker) “blending in” is the last thing you want to do. Years ago I was struggling with my personal shyness undermining my desires to work professionally as an actor and filmmaker. I read a book called “The 48 Laws of Power.” In it, two “laws” spoke directly to me: Law #6: Court Attention At All Costs and Law #25: Re-Create Yourself.
Under Law #6 the author wrote: “Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing.” The point being that unless I was somehow visible to people in social and work settings, I was wasting valuable time. (You might be surprised by how many conversations begin with someone approaching me saying, “Nice hat.” The ice is broken and I can easily fall into a conversation. Afterwards, I am doubtlessly remembered as “The Guy in the Hat.”)
I love Law #25: Re-Create Yourself. “Do not accept the roles that society foists on you… The world wants to assign you a role in life and once you accept the role you are doomed.” That’s great stuff! For me, it meant that if I did not create a role/image, then someone else would. Why would I cede that control to anyone but me? The fedora basically says: Look at me! Remember me! The rest of how I am perceived is up to me and my own personality. But it’s the hat that opens the door and sets me up. All I have to do from there is BE ME.
In life, especially in the entertainment business, it is vital that you stand apart. Talent is no good if someone doesn’t point to you and say “Show me what you’ve got.” In other words: it counts for nothing. Most of us fall back into the comfort of the pack and cannot figure out how to break free. Here’s how you do it: think about the image of the “Ideal You” that you’d love the world to know you as… then methodically craft a new external you that beings to separate you from the crowd and the old version you. Start with clothes including shoes– upgrade and choose a style. Add at least one unusual accoutrement such as a hat, a ring, bracelet, or even a walking stick if you think you can pull it off! The new external you will help you believe in the new “ideal you” inside. You create an image that you can inhabit to pursue your dreams, and one which can be discarded in private moments when you are among friends.
“Michael James Kacey” (MJK) is an ideal version of myself. At times, it is a role I play; a protective suit that I wear into battle as an artistic soul in a business full of promise and often stunningly devoid of passion and creativity. Whenever the cold, cruel world rejects Michael James Kacey, I just shed that role and focus on being plain old Mike. I take nothing that happens to MJK personally. That’s business.
Now this image-creation thing is not limited to show business. Anyone can do this. If you feel unhappy about the way people see you, you can do something about it. If you don’t define your image, someone else most definitely will!
I’m just saying…