The Hat Lady: How Linda Pagan Found Her Road

Linda Pagan from @TheHatShopNY “Hats! There it was, right on top of my head.” Hat-lovers and the hat-curious can visit Linda’s shop in Soho in NYC. Photo by @Josh_Gosfield

“When I graduated college in 1980, there was a recession. I went to a temp agency, took a typing test, and they sent me down to Wall Street to a reinsurance broker for Lloyd’s. I started off as the receptionist and worked my way up to being a broker doing million dollar deals. I had a great night life and great boyfriends, but after 10 years of looking forward to Friday every Monday, I stopped pretending. I was 31. They had no choice but to fire me. My boss cried when he let me go saying, ‘For 10 years you’ve been a square peg in a round hole.’ I took an occupational test. It came back I’d be great in the army. Oh my God, I love uniforms, but I don’t like to be shot at! All my artist and musician friends worked in restaurants so I went to bartending school. I landed a great job at an elegant bar that brought back the martini. One night, behind the bar, a light bulb went off in my head. I said I really love bartending, but I’m 35. It’s a very demanding job. You need to be physically fit and I love people but there’s a lot of alcoholism. I asked myself, ‘What else do I love that I can I make a living at?’ I made a list of my hobbies: Reading, writing, meeting friends for coffee, second-run movie theaters, going to Turkish baths, history, travel. A Turkish bath-style spa? It was beyond my means. A second-run movie house? Same thing. Then I thought about hats. Hats! There it was, right on top of my head.

I’ve always loved hats. I still have my first hat from primary school when I lived in England. See, it’s beautiful. It’s sueded felt and top stitched. It’s got a fine French grosgrain, an embroidered emblem, and a finished bow. In the 70’s I wore a red hat with daisies. In college, a bowler hat. On Wall Street, a beret. At the bar, lots of hats. Hats became part of my identity. Let’s get Linda hats for her birthday! The baseball cap came back in 1985, I figured now it’s 1993 there must be a certain percentage of people who want a nicer hat. I asked around and everybody thought it was a great idea except for two people. My parents. But I did it anyway.”

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