DISCLAIMER****** I have no affiliation with Stetson or its subsidiaries. This preview and review is my own observations and opinions. ******************************************************************************************* That being said.......THIS HAT WILL FOREVER CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK OF MODERN FACTORY HATS I am unable to say how I was able to procure this hat, but this hat will be available sometime for sale in 2015 This hat uses Stetson's new EXCELLENT QUALITY felt which was developed by Matt Deckard at Stetson/Hatco. I am unsure of the exact felt formula (its proprietary obviously), but I have been informed that it is MOSTLY BEAVER. What "MOSTLY" means I am unsure, but its at least 80-90 percent pure beaver (maybe more...like I said, I was not privy to the exact formula). The other furs such as nutria, rabbit, and chinchilla have been added for softness, denseness, and ruggedness. This is NOT a bad thing. 100% beaver bodies don't necessarily make the "best" hats. Every type of fur has its strengths and weaknesses and I feel that this particular formula embraces the absolute strengths of each type of fur. Matt really nailed this formula!!! THIS FELT IS IDENTICAL TO FELT PRODUCED BY STETSON IN THE 1940'S/1950'S!! Its every bit as good as a Stetson 50, 7xCB, or Stetson 100 from that time period. I do not say this lightly and have put the felt through many tests in order to give this review. It is VERY dense without being tough and thick. It is light, without being floppy. It is thin, without being weak. It holds a crease without being too stiff. I have owned, bought, and sold MANY 1940's/1950's Stetson hats and HONESTLY the very first time I took this hat out of the box I thought it was vintage. Let this felt age another 50 years as so many of our golden age Stetsons and it will get even that much better. In the couple weeks that I have owned it, every time it gets wet, creased, brushed, or handled, the felt gets better and better. Color Saturation: The color of this hat is incredibly even throughout the hat body. There is no spottiness, mottling, or weak dye spots. I have creased this hat dry, with steam, and with water and the felt color DID NOT BLEED. It also did NOT leave green color on my fingers. I have wet creased many vintage hats and have been left with color bleed on my fingers so I was VERY impressed at the color impregnation of this new felt. There was NO POWDER of any sort and even when I purposefully soaked the hat under the faucet, the color refused to bleed. Absolutely fantastic dye work on this felt body. Shellac Impregnation: By far the best shellac impregnation of any MODERN factory AND custom hat I have seen to date. Period. As soon as I received the hat I put a dry crease in the crown and snapped the brim. This crease did not move despite windy conditions and being handled. The crease didn't move until I purposely popped it out. When creased dry there was NO SPIDERING, NO HARD SPOTS, NO WEAK SPOTS, and the felt molded like clay. The brim snaps up and down effortlessly. The brim was pounced to a beautifully thin weight which allows the wearer to shape the brim any way they like without the use of steam but will hold shape in the windiest of conditions. Felt Finish and Pounce: The pouncing on this hat was beautifully done. It has a VERY soft hand and the finish was very consistent all around. On the very top (peak) of the crown there was a small area which could have been pounced a little more, but after some steaming and brushing was not noticeable at all. I would say the crown was pounced 97% perfectly and the brim was pounced 100% perfectly. I do not look at this as being a flaw because I have owned vintage 40's/50's Stetsons which did not have perfect pouncing or perfect felt. It in no way detracted from the hats beauty, wearability, or high quality craftsmanship. I was VERY impressed that a modern day factory hat could have been made with such a great finish. Just a side note.....the inside of the crown (under the liner) was pounced perfectly smooth as well. Just as smooth as the outside of the hat. It was a marvelous touch of quality that is often overlooked by modern day hat makers. Many modern factory and customs have un-pounced inner crowns because the mentality is..."no one will see it." Well this 2015 Stetson Excellent Quality took quality to a whole other level. If it was a hot day, you could take the liner out of the hat and be proud to wear it without the liner because the hat would still look perfectly finished. Crown: As I mentioned before, the crown molds like clay and can be creased with or without steam or water. The crown has a little more shellac than the brim in order to hold a dry crease but I think this is a FANTASTIC touch. The crown is NOT stiff by any means and is just as pliable and soft as a vintage Stetson hat. I have not measured the felt thickness with a micrometer yet, but just from feel I can tell you that its right in line with vintage felt denseness, thickness, and pliability. There is NO spidering in the felt when creased dry or wet. The crown profile looks identical to a 40's/50's Strat/Open Road. Its a full crown profile which can take a c-crown, teardrop, center crease, diamond, chicken foot, etc. I have tried all of these creases on this hats crown and not only did all of them look great, they creased in and then popped back out with ease. Brim: As I mentioned before, there is less shellac in the brim than in the crown. This was intentional to allow the wearer to shape the brim any way they wanted on command without the need for steam or water. The brim is NOT flimsy in any way and will absolutely hold shape. The finish is absolutely beautiful. There are no "pock" marks in the felt finish. The brim bends and flexes evenly all the way around with NO spidering. The shellac was impregnated perfectly and the brim has NO weak or hard spots due to improper shellac impregnation. The brim binding was executed VERY well with even stitches. My only "complaint" about the brim binding was that the rear stitch seam did not line up with the rear sweatband seam/rear centerline of the crown. This is my own personal picky-ness and in no way reflects on the quality of the trim work. Out of the hundreds of vintage hats I have had in my hands, very few of them ever had a rear brim binding seam line up with the back of the hat/rear sweatband seam. Its a detail many or most hat wearers would never notice. Trim (sweatband, ribbon, liner): The sweatband is a beautifully soft and amazingly comfortable leather. Within 15 minutes on my head, the sweatband conformed to my head and for the rest of the day had no idea I was even wearing a hat. It appears to be a soft roan leather sweatband with a acrylic clear coat in order to protect against oils and salts from your skin. It will prolong the life of the sweatband for years to come and is very smooth and comfortable against the skin. I have worn the hell out of this hat in the last couple weeks and there is NO sign of any sweat staining on the leather. The gold foil stampings have been executed very well and seem to have adhered to the acrylic clear coat very well. The liner is made from a beautiful material with a nice sheen. The gold piping in the center is a great touch and the tip stamp must have been printed on an old Heidelberg stamping machine because the stamping is extremely detailed and clear. The sweat from the top of my head has NOT flaked any of the gold printing foil away and appears to be extremely durable. the ribbon/bow work looks vastly improved from other modern day Stetson hats I have seen. Yes.......the stitches are NOT hidden or blind stitches, the operator who stitched my ribbon/bow on did a very neat and tidy job. The stitch is half way up the ribbon, but its is even and consistent all the way around. I'm sure the reason the stitches can't be as small as they were on vintage 40's/50's hats is because today the thread being used is a monofilament plastic verses a natural cotton thread. The monofilament yields a bigger stitch mark, but when executed properly makes a fine tack. I have no complaints about the ribbon/bow stitch work on this new Excellent Quality. I could honestly go on and on about this new 2015 Stetson Excellent Quality. As many of the lounge members know, I have collected many vintage hats through the years and have had the opportunity of comparing many of them. This new Excellent Quality Stetson honestly could be confused for a vintage hat for many of the reasons I stated above. Matt Deckard and Hatco have done an EXCELLENT job in creating a hat that any "Golden Age" hat maker would be proud of. This hat is the BEST I have seen from any large Modern Hat factory and many customs as well. Before you buy another custom or before you buy another Akubra, Bailey, etc.........check out this new 2015 Stetson Excellent Quality. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!!