Kids, stay in school. Go to college or you might end up on the street. Get a degree and find a real job. Otherwise you might end up self-employed running an all cash business that allows you to do what you love almost anywhere in the world. You don’t want that for yourself, now do you?
Whatever you do for a living, you wear some kind of hat. Not always literally, but in terms of the role(s) you fill — construction worker, bartender, mother, doctor, whatever — that’s the hat you hang when you get home. When someone asks “What do you do”, the answer is the hat you wear.
I’ve been making a living as a street performer now for just over two years, which is long enough to feel fairly secure in the unorthodox life-decision. I continually receive pay raises as I learn more and more about my craft. Using showmanship and sleight of hand, not only have I covered my costs and supported myself, but I’ve been able to afford purchasing a motorcycle and spending four months riding across the U.S. For how looked-down upon buskers are in America, I believe that if the common man knew more about the lifestyle, he might find himself envious of the freedom.
I recently took a trip to Meyer the Hatter, the oldest hat store in the South. I told them I was a street magician, gave them the specs of what I like and dislike, and tried on about thirty hats in the course of an hour. I eventually met my match and bought myself a quality felt hat.
All my previous hats were $20 tourist-shop hats that I decorated with paint and glitter in attempt to distinguish myself amongst the crowds. The act of investing in a quality headpiece solidified my confidence in my ability to support myself with my art. With the new look I could feel my character maturing, my appearance now having more of a touch of class and professionalism.
To a busker, a hat is much more than an accessory. As the receptacle for spectators to deposit their appreciation into, it is a symbol of ones livelihood. Almost every dollar I’ve spent since 2012 has passed through one of these hats. It’s a significant piece of the performers costume, an article that marks him or her apart from the ordinary pedestrian. It should be a representation of your character, because it will influence how every spectator perceives you.
Looking back, my appearance as a street performer has undergone many transformations. I began with a fishing lure strategy — bright fluorescents, safety orange pants, glittery hat. Though it worked in gaining the attention from people passing by, I’ve since discovered more efficient ways to be noticed. I learned volumes about the impact of image when I cut off the mohawk and began gravitating towards a more mainstream appearance. After cutting the mohawk I’d also begun wearing button-ups and vests, but they were loose fitting and a little too casual.
A week ago I found a jacket at a thrift store that was the closest to my measurements as I’d ever found, priced at $9.99. It ended up being half off, so for $5 I went from lad to gentleman. It’s odd what a shift a change of clothes can cause. Compared to the raised-eyebrows I received with my tackle box wardrobe early in my career, the attention I receive when dressed up is dramatically different. I’ve simultaneously I’ve begun doing a trick that incorporates a $20 bill, and the combination of the two has led me to receive big bills with the most consistency yet.
The Progression of Costumes
(Notice the hats)
My summer plans of an East Coast motorcycle tour have been slowly attempting to morph themselves into a trip to Europe. I’ve heard over and over that most of the world-class acts reside on that side of the pond, and if I want to be the best, it’d help to see the best. The majority of my resources over the last year and a half have gone towards investing in my steed and gear, but it could be a wonderful learning experience to strip down to MagicianWithABackpack while I go study street theater in foreign countries for a few months. We’ll find out soon enough.
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