Wanted a new beret, got a pork pie



Smart, Alec Hattery, 235 Gertrude St, Fitzroy. Phone: 9416 4664

We’re a frugal household here at CTS HQ.

We wear towels of both sorts to threadbare so they can no longer be used.

We get the lowest electricity bills of anyone I know – the one in the mail today, which covered multiple 40+ days – clocked in at $246.

Essentials such as books and music – and even non-essentials such as clothing and shoes – tend to be acquired on a drip-feed when-needed basis.

So we don’t have much truck with retail therapy.

But every now and then …

Some good news on the job front and some other comforting news on the broader financial front warrant a visit to Gertrude Street in Fitzroy.

We’re not all-of-a-sudden rich or anything, but …

First up CDs by Guitar Slim, Allen Toussaint, Ike Turner, Chuck Willis and Thurston Harris.

Then a brief stroll takes me to CTS’s favourite bricks-and-mortar book store.

I enter seeking a particular book on the history of curries and another on the history of eating.

They have neither in stock … so I depart happily with four beaut books, mostly of the memoir/road trip variety and all concerned with American food.


That lot should keep me engrossed for at least, oh, a month. Great writing about food – love it!

Then it’s right next door for me and into the headgear emporium known as Smart Alec.

When Bennie and I last entered these premises a few months back – on the same mission I find myself on today – the place was chockers with customers.

Today – for a while at least – I am the only customer, and I revel in it.

You see, my beret is looking tatty – I’ve had it for years.

Worse, it’s actually too small. So if I pull it firmly on my head, as in the case of strong winds, it leaves an unsightly band across my forehead.

(The one before it was too big, so regularly went flying down in the street in those same winds …)

I dig Smart Alex owner Michael immediately.

Here’s a man fully in thrall to his hattery passion, bubbling with chat and enthusiasm.

He fixes me up in short order.

Firstly, he spruces up my existing beret up with a steam clean. And then he stretches it so it actually fits, using one of three machines he has for precisely that purpose.


This one is French and a collector’s item. We both “ooohh” and “aahhh” over it like some people I know do over trains and 78s records, among other things.

So it turns out the floppy, lightweight cotton beret I quite like is not a necessary purchase today. Maybe for summer …

In the meantime, while Michael is serving another customer – the one who has rather rudely interrupted my, ahem, “private” consultation – I luck upon the perfect hat.


Finding a hat that fits, perfectly, first time is such a rarity for me that I sigh with the pleasure of it.

It’s a gorgeous diamond-top pork pie.

The price is right.

I don’t hesitate.

Maybe there will fewer gags thrown my way this winter about Mythbusters?













9 thoughts on “Wanted a new beret, got a pork pie

  1. Looks great Kenny! I love the Smart Alec guy’s enthusiasm too and he’s always on the mark with his suggestions. The man knows his hats.


  2. I recently lost my Aussie bush hat, a brown Barmah ‘roo-skin job that I bought from City Hatters at Flinders Station in 2006. That bugger had been around the world at least three times. I had left it behind at restaurants in Venice and Silicon Valley, but always managed to retrieve it. I doubled back to the cafe in Richmond and the cancer ward at the Epworth where I coffee’d and worked the day it went missing, but no trace. It was a great hat, so if some bastard nicked it to wear themselves (after the better part of a decade absorbing my scalp-sweat?) I hope they sport it around the planet at least one more time. That hat has been in almost every outdoor photo taken of me for the past 8 years. There’s a demographic of eccentric older blokes who are defined by our headgear, eh? My dad was one, with astrakhan hats, and I seem to have the same genetic behavioural disposition. You see any traits of that with Bennie? The only good thing is, this gave me an excuse to send some more trade to Melbourne’s iconic hattery. I love that place, and their price for one just like I got all those years ago was $2 cheaper than the same model at the tourist shops up Swanston.


  3. Hi Kenny
    What is the Tabasco book like? I recently got back from the States and hubby and I visited the Tabasco factory on Avery Island. The tour was short and sweet, but interesting and we got to see the good stuff being bottled (and brought three bottles home, plus all the mini samples they give you)


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