Advice for the Newbie

Discussion in 'Hats' started by jdbenson, Dec 15, 2007.

  1. jdbenson

    jdbenson One of the Regulars

    Cincinnnati, OH
    Just wanted to formally say "hi" (since I've been lurking for a week or two), and ask for some advice.

    I recently decided that my wool felt pork pie needed to be replaced, and I've decided to go with a fedora. Since I live in Cincinnati, I will ultimately go to Gus Miller at Batsakes and have him make me one, but I need to save my pennies to do so. So I've been watching Ebay. Here's where I need some advice. All 'bay sellers are convinced that their products are worth million$. I just saw an Open Road go for over $200!! So, I need to know what to watch for and what to ignore. I know I should look for Vintage Stetson and Borsalino, go for beaver or fur felt...what else should I know?

    I really love this forum and have learned a TON already.
  2. J.T.Marcus

    J.T.Marcus Call Me a Cab

    Mineola, Texas
    Don't throw your wool porkpie away, yet. It takes two or more to make a collection. When buying a used hat, one of the most important considerations is, "Is it perfect, and therefore worth paying more; or will it have to be fixed, and if so is it worth it?"
  3. RBH

    RBH Bartender

    Welcome and good luck in your fedora search!
  4. Mike in Seattle

    Mike in Seattle My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Renton (Seattle), WA
    And there are plenty of online hat vendors to chose from until you're ready for the custom lid.

    Welcome to the Lounge!
  5. tandmark

    tandmark One of the Regulars


    Welcome to the Fedora Lounge, jd! Always great to see a new Lounger who lives in the city where I was born.

    You've got a lot of options, when it comes to finding a good, affordable fedora. You can go new-off-the-shelf, you can go vintage, and of course you can try to cherrypick a hat on eBay.

    New hats:

    There are some hat brands that are fairly easy to find on the shelves of men's shops and hat shops, and not bank-breakingly expensive, while still being made of decent felt.

    You might start by considering Bailey and Dobbs. Then there are Biltmore, Akubra, Beaver Brand, and (modern) Stetson, all of them tending to be slightly more expensive on average.

    A bit higher up the price scale is the (modern) Borsalino. At that price level, you're spending just as much as if you were getting custom-made hats, such as Art Fawcett's Vintage Silhouette hats, Jimmy Pierce's creations, Camptowns, Adventurebilts, Mike Moore's great work, Batsakes, etc. Too pricey for me so far, I've got to admit!

    You might enjoy trying to score some decent but less-expensive real-felt hats, just to see whether you look better in a hat shape or color than you expected. A great place to experiment with this is the Burlington Coat Factory (in your area, there's one on Cincinnati Mills Drive). They often have fur-felt hats or fur-wool blend felt hats for $20 or so. You can see a lot of examples in a thread here on the Lounge, called "Hats at Burlington Coat Factory." The Tonak hats at BCF are often pretty good deals, if any happen to be on the shelves when you're there.

    If you want to consider online hat shops, I can vouch for a few I've bought hats from. Miller Hats, Mike the Hatter, and The Fedora Store all come to mind right off the bat. For Akubras, there are Hats Direct in Sydney, Everything Australian in Melbourne, and David Morgan near Seattle. The one thing about these places is that you'd better have a clear idea of your actual head-diameter/size, and you'd better be prepared to do some exchanging in the (common) event that the hat isn't quite the same size as is marked on the sweatband.

    Vintage hats:

    If your head is smaller than 7 3/8 or so, you can sometimes find good vintage hats in antique shops and vintage clothing stores. Maybe even at places like Goodwill or St Vincent de Paul.

    You'll have a lot more brands to consider, so search the Lounge for the various threads in which folks listed the vintage brands they liked and trusted.

    A little moth divot or a hole left by a safety pin or staple can be fixed easily enough (search the Lounge for the term "felting needle"). Serious sweat stains, brim rips, or rotted-out sweatbands are often fixable, but I haven't been bold enough to try such repairs myself. :eek:

    Our Favorite Auction Site:

    If your head is, again, 7 3/8 or smaller, and if the seller will let you return the hat if it's not the size stated in the description, you can score vintage hats on eBay. Most of them will be trilbys and stingy brim hats, probably from the late-'60s/early-'70s -- not to everyone's taste!

    You can find new hats in attractive styles too, sometimes even in larger sizes, offered as unsold backstock, but that works best if you have a fair idea about the hat and what it's worth. If the new hat is said to be sized as S/M/L/XL, I'd recommend that you pass it by, as it's likely to be a cheap wool-felt knockoff.

    Personally, I won't pay a lot for an eBay hat unless I'm certain that it's a real prize.

    On eBay, you'll find that sellers won't know hat sizes, won't describe the hat as being the correct style, will misspell key descriptive terms, and will categorize the hat in the wrong part of eBay.

    Half the time, or more, you'll have to send a query to the seller to get them to physically measure the inside diameter of the hat. That's just part of the game, I guess. Hat sizes are a little confusing anyway, since there are different size scales for different countries. Bookmark this page to have a chart always at hand:

    Many sellers don't know from hat styles. Others might know, but deliberately list other styles in order to get their offerings seen by buyers who don't know from hat styles. A porkpie might be described as being a "Homburg Trilby Blues Bros Sinatra" or who knows what else!

    With all due respect to the many fine people in the world with dyslexia, I still find it unnerving to see a derby hat described as a "Boler." So if you search for a specific style of hat, you might try alternative searches to find listings by those sellers with this kind of Chaucerian spelling. lol

    Then there are the miscategorizations. New hats can be listed in the Vintage Clothing section. The nice hats made by the Disney company several decades ago are sometimes found under Mickey Mouse collectibles. :eusa_doh:

    And that's pretty much all I know about finding affordable fur-felt hats of quality that look good. Hope you find it useful!

    :eek:fftopic: Your avatar is brilliant, jd! Is it an actual portrait of you, or just an image of someone wearing a porkpie?

  6. airforceindy

    airforceindy One of the Regulars

    Anchorage, AK
    Yeah, everything tandmark just said :D From my own thus far brief experience in the world of hats, people are only going to pay what they think it's worth. If somebody decides that a perfect Stratoliner is worth $300, they'll go all the way to $300, even though a near perfect Strat with one small moth bite on the crown or a stained liner may go for $100 or less.
    I was blessed/cursed with a rather large noggin, 7 5/8, so vintage hats are relatively hard to come by. There are so few of the large ones that they get bought up and held on to for much longer. So, I have gone with the next best thing: making do with todays versions of yesteryear's styles, and one (so far) custom made hat. My Adventurebilt is still waiting it's turn to be made, but I have an Akubra Federation Deluxe ($112 used, with $70 refurb by Optimo), a Dobbs unknown model ($25 on OFAS), a Stetson 8X ($5.50 in an antiques mall), and a Bailey stingey brim (gift from my wife, about $40). It's possible to get some decent chapeaus without losing an arm or leg while doing so.

    Good Luck,
  7. jdbenson

    jdbenson One of the Regulars

    Cincinnnati, OH

    Wow, Mark, thanks for the detailed reply, that helps a lot.

    I figure to start around $50-75 range, until I can save up enought to have a custom made. I'll double check the Bailey and Dobbs range. How 'bout Jaxon hats? I've just started seeing them online, are the decent or garbage?

    Funny that you mention BCF, I was just there last night and they only had two fur felts, both too small for my big head. My head measures 23 1/8 inches, so I guess I'm a 7 3/8 or possibly a 7 1/2.

    I've started watching OFAS, and have found all your complaints to be true. It's a challenge to wade thru the dross until you fine the gold.

    As for my avatar, it's a stylized portrait of Jazz musician Lester Young, who liked wearing Pork Pie hats. Thelonious Monk's song "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" was written for Young. Oddly enough, Monks song got so popular, that HE'S now more associated with pork pies than Young is.

    When were you last in Cincy?
  8. carter

    carter I'll Lock Up

    Corsicana, TX
    You have a great hat shop in Cincinnati

    Look at this thread:

    Batsake's in Cleveland has been in business for over 100 years. Gus Miller, the proprietor, has been there over 56 years. This would be a good place to start. It's where I'd go if I lived in or near Cincinnati.
  9. apipeguy

    apipeguy One of the Regulars

    Jd, welcome. pull up a chair and stay awhile.
  10. tandmark

    tandmark One of the Regulars

    'Lo again,

    Aha, so that avatar picture is supposed to be Pres? One of my favorite jazzmen. Way cool artwork. Kinda like a van Gogh painting, huh?

    You're welcome for the long post. Hope it wasn't over-long. Some of these days I'll probably get around to posting similar screen dumps sharing what I've learned about the various kinds of novelty hats I've collected examples of, such as berets or Alpine hats.

    There are three Burlington outlets near Seattle. One had nothing I liked, but the other two had some fur-felts and even some wool-felts that I picked up. It's really impossible to know whether any particular BCF will have anything worth looking at. If there's a BCF in Dayton, Middletown, Hamilton, or any of the other middling-size cities near you, you might take a look.

    Check some of the online hat shops to see whether there mightn't be some Akubra or Stetson fedoras (to pull two examples out of the air) that would be in your price range before you decide to limit yourself to a Dobbs or Bailey. I know for sure that there are some Baileys that will cost more than some Akubras, because I recall what I paid just this summer for one of each brand of hat. The real point here is, that the more you know about what's out there, the better you'll feel about whatever you do decide to get next.

    As for Jaxon hats, others will have to talk about them. Don't recall that I've ever bought, tried on, or seriously considered any Jaxons, sorry.

  11. snowslider

    snowslider New in Town

    Virginia, US
    tanmark, thank you for your comments.
  12. NoirDame

    NoirDame One of the Regulars


    I'm sure that's a typo, but Cleveland is quite a ways from Cinci. :O

    I'll have to look into this place.

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