My friend’s father in Coberg, Germany, bought a new and quite expensive Borsalino hat of which he was inordinately proud. Each week, after a large and satisfying dinner with his family, he ventured out for a short walk through the town to join his friends at the local Inn for a game of whist and a pint or two. Ludwig was the owner of a factory which made fountain pens, and as such he belonged to one of the Guilds in the town, to which all the local businesses were linked.

His friend Bruno Hauptmann, was the butcher, and was a large burly man with coarse grey untidy hair and an impressive mustache. His substantial midsection strained against his tweed jacket, his face was round and ruddy with an enlarged nose, revealing that he was no stranger to the bottle.

Little Hans Cremer was the shoemaker in town, and was the exact opposite of Bruno. Short and thin, he sported a thin mustache, and a balding head. His suit seemed too large for him, and though of good quality, he seemed to be always rumpled and in a hurry, speaking rapidly, as if he couldn’t wait to get the words out.

The baker, Claus Meier, a large and jolly man, forever bestowing good humor along with his bakery goods, was given to practical jokes, and on their weekly visits, invariably rushed in late, full of local gossip, and after a quick pat on the bottom of the barmaid, settled down for an evening of cards and fun. The four had been friends for many years and all looked forward to their weekly visits.

On the night in question. Ludwig took out his new Borsalino hat, placed it carefully upon his head, and after surveying himself in the hall mirror, he tweaked his mustache, gave a small satisfied smile at himself, and set out along the street to the Inn. The hat had cost a great deal of money, and Ludwig was a vain man, who had waited some time to flaunt his prosperity to his friends.

All the men were successful in their businesses, and all could well afford a Borsalino hat as well, but none seemed as prone to ostentation as Ludwig, who upon arriving at the Inn, carefully and noisily placed his new hat on a nearby hook.

Later, when Ludwig rose to visit the men’s room, Claus quickly whispered to the others that “since he was proud as a peacock” it would be amusing to cut a hole in the front of Ludwig’s hat and see his reaction. When Ludwig returned, the three cohorts were sipping their pints and talking quietly among themselves.

Ludwig being the first to leave, stood, placed his new hat upon his head once more, said his goodbyes and walked away. His friends were amazed that he had not noticed the hole in his new hat, but assumed that he would notice it when he arrived home. Lauging heartily, they drained their glasses, rose and retreived their own headgear. Claus gave the barmaid another pat on the bottom, and picked up his hat only to find that he had cut the hole in his own Borsalino!

Meanwhile, Ludwig had many years of enjoyment from wearing his new hat, and was none the wiser for the practical joke which backfired.