When I grew up in the 80s and 90s (don't remember much of the 80s since I was too young) there were no fedoras around. At least there were no fedoras where I lived. I couldn't see a single hat worn on the street. Of course, there were people using hats but mostly you would see the occasional sports cap worn backward. I didn't use them. My family did not use them either. The only hat I would be able to see was the Raiders Fedora worn by no other than Indiana Jones himself on the big screen.
WHAT IS A HAT TO ME?
The first Indiana Jones movie I could remember was The Last Crusade which was how my love for hats ultimately began. Dr. Jones considered the hat as his most important piece of equipment. I say equipment because I shaped who he was as a person and what he stood for represented in a hat. The famous line close to the opening of The Last Crusade "it belongs in a museum" speaks a lot about how he would stand by his principles (if you don't know it, see the movie).
That's where I stand with hats. A hat is an extension of yourself, an accessory if you will. It won't change who you are but it will sure help to speak out for perhaps what you represent. Look at Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Davy Crockett, Guy Fawkes, Theodore Roosevelt, The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland and more. The obvious functional reasons for wearing a hat are endless. Protection from rain, cold and heat. It shades in the sun and it warms your head in winter. Pull the hat far enough down and it cushions the tip of your ears which tend to get cold and frozen first.
WHO IS IT FOR?
Nowadays hats are Unisex, which is amazing. A fedora or a bowler was once the most prized possession of a man. The price range of hats was huge. Standard hat felt, hat with a ribbon, hat with a specific crease to the crown, hat with a bounded edge, hat made out of Beaver felt mix and so on. More details, more work and ultimately higher priced. People would save up over months for a hat. I remember seeing the Peaky Blinders series where the detective meets Winston Churchill on the train. Their first conversation is about the hat. Winston tells the detective wearing a bowler hat "That's a nice hat" and the detective replies "yes, it's a beaver mix". Then on to business.
Hats are for everyone. Some might think that its not convenient or comfortable. Then you have not tried the comfort of a custom-made hat. Please prove me wrong.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
I also read the story about Stetson and his hats, how he came to become the most famous hat maker. Sitting by the fire he was making blankets out of felt to keep warm which ended up becoming hats to his friends. The Boss of the Plains ended up being his most famous hat, designed to be lightweight and protect from all-weather in 1865. I recommend the book, link below.
Two years ago I saw this picture to the left. I was browsing the web looking for inspiration I guess. This is a picture from New York before the turn of the century. Notice that handsome fellow at the right corner? That guy wearing a fairly tall bowler led me to where I am today. The curve and the fact that the hat is tall made it look amazing. It also makes the guy look taller. The rest of his outfit is not as amazing but very stylish for the time. "You can have any color you want as long as its black", Henry Ford..
From here I started to do my research on hat felting and what it takes to make a hat. Long story short, I ended up making my own bowler and I was hooked. I couldn't get enough. I quit my job, packed my bags and started making hats full time. I have asked several hat makers out there for assistance and it has not been easy finding the right information. But there were some very friendly artists out there whom I truly appreciate their help. Obviously, they did not share all detailed techniques but they gave me a nudge towards the right direction and I respect that. A hint towards your goal is more than enough to seek out the right answer.
FASHION OR VINTAGE?
Looking back 10 to 15 years hats are emerging back in fashion. There are tons of enthusiast that dress very dapper and wear a stunning fedora, my hats off to them because that is genuine care and a true gentleman style. Then you have the Hipsters of course. I am happy to see so many new hatters and millinery small businesses or hobbyist emerging in the market. They all have their own take on the hat and inspiration. Fantastic! In a way, it also creates a new market for hats and they won't be taken over by factory hats made with machines instead of by hand. Handmade is king! In any field. I, for one, supports handmade items. It might cost more, but it will last longer in many ways.
Which direction am I going? In my view, a hat should come to you as an open crown hat for you to create your own story. With your wear, the hat shapes to your head. It acts on your desires. If you always pinch the hat felt at the same spot it will remember what you did. The coffee stain on the side will remind you of that family gathering. That scratch on the side will remind you of your trip to Paris where you bumped into a tourist. A hat will become unique with you and by your experiences. A custom-made hat fits your head and your specific shape and size makes it fit you personally. Someone wouldn't steal a hat that doesn't fit them. They would have to go out and ask for your size first unless that person actually has the same head size as you do..
A hat represents your journey in life and that's why you pay more for a custom-made hat that fits and is made with higher quality material than the mainstream versions (no brands mentioned). Its also made to last longer and for generations. Old western graves have been dug up with nothing left except a few bones and a furfelt hat. That personal hat will remind you or future generations of who wore that hat and what that person left behind. Its an investment, an expression and most of all its a lifestyle.
My journey is just beginning but stay tuned for more.