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Blare

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,661
Hi!

I’m new to these forums, so forgive me if I’m breaking some protocol by asking this question in this thread.
I recently got into fedoras and bought a wool felt one from a local producer. I quickly learnt that a fur felt one would be a better choice and started browsing flea markets. Luckily I found one in my size from Finlands equivalent to Ebay for 25€! Now that I’ve received the hat it seems to be just what I wanted, but there’s no branding on it. Could you help me indentify the hat?

It seems to be rather new, since the tags inside seem modern. The seller told me that it’s from Germany. The only information that I could pull from the hat are the model number 643A and the text ”100% haar 60”. I presume 60 means size and 100% haar means it’s 100% rabbit fur felt? At least it was easier to steam to shape than the wool one.

I’ll attach here a picture of the emblem inside the hat.

Thank you for your help in advance!
Hi Riby. Welcome to the lounge. Congratulations on your first fur felt. If you spend much time around here it likely won’t be your last ;)

As to this branding… not anything I am familiar with. A lot of the modern European hats are produced by Tonak. Maybe some of our European friends could weigh in. @Steve1857 @steur @Pellie @Daniele Tanto

PS.. let’s see it on!
 

Steve1857

I'll Lock Up
Messages
7,399
Location
Denmark
Hi!

I’m new to these forums, so forgive me if I’m breaking some protocol by asking this question in this thread.
I recently got into fedoras and bought a wool felt one from a local producer. I quickly learnt that a fur felt one would be a better choice and started browsing flea markets. Luckily I found one in my size from Finlands equivalent to Ebay for 25€! Now that I’ve received the hat it seems to be just what I wanted, but there’s no branding on it. Could you help me indentify the hat?

It seems to be rather new, since the tags inside seem modern. The seller told me that it’s from Germany. The only information that I could pull from the hat are the model number 643A and the text ”100% haar 60”. I presume 60 means size and 100% haar means it’s 100% rabbit fur felt? At least it was easier to steam to shape than the wool one.

I’ll attach here a picture of the emblem inside the hat.

Thank you for your help in advance!
Welcome to the FL and the wonderful world of hat collecting, Riby.

As you say, it's a very modern hat. The emblem isn't any known make. Check under the sweatband inside the hat to see if there are any other labels.
 
Messages
16,681
Location
Maryland
Hi!

I’m new to these forums, so forgive me if I’m breaking some protocol by asking this question in this thread.
I recently got into fedoras and bought a wool felt one from a local producer. I quickly learnt that a fur felt one would be a better choice and started browsing flea markets. Luckily I found one in my size from Finlands equivalent to Ebay for 25€! Now that I’ve received the hat it seems to be just what I wanted, but there’s no branding on it. Could you help me indentify the hat?

It seems to be rather new, since the tags inside seem modern. The seller told me that it’s from Germany. The only information that I could pull from the hat are the model number 643A and the text ”100% haar 60”. I presume 60 means size and 100% haar means it’s 100% rabbit fur felt? At least it was easier to steam to shape than the wool one.

I’ll attach here a picture of the emblem inside the hat.

Thank you for your help in advance!
Do you have more photos (side view, front view, inside view, sweatband marks, sweatband bow)? I would like to see photo of where (paper label) it says 100% Haar. Does it have a paper label behind the sweatband?
 

Riby

New in Town
Messages
4
Location
Rovaniemi, Finland
Thank you all for your replies and your warm welcomes! The fedora smelt quite bad when I got it, so I put it in a sealed bag with some baking powder in a stocking and some newspaper last thursday. I’m planning on taking it out this thursday. I’ll provide the additional pictures then. When I got it I just quickly steamed it into shape and then sealed it, so unfortunately I don’t even remember where the 100% haar 60 -text was located.

The smell was something like a strong cologne with an added sweet and sour sidesmell. Could it be some sort of moth repellant smell? Fingers crossed that it gets better after my treatment!
 

belfastboy

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Messages
8,839
Location
vancouver, canada
Thank you all for your replies and your warm welcomes! The fedora smelt quite bad when I got it, so I put it in a sealed bag with some baking powder in a stocking and some newspaper last thursday. I’m planning on taking it out this thursday. I’ll provide the additional pictures then. When I got it I just quickly steamed it into shape and then sealed it, so unfortunately I don’t even remember where the 100% haar 60 -text was located.

The smell was something like a strong cologne with an added sweet and sour sidesmell. Could it be some sort of moth repellant smell? Fingers crossed that it gets better after my treatment!
I bought a vintage hat with a similar sounding smell. Very sickly sweet perfumy stink. I figured some manner of hair product. I tore the hat down, gave it a naptha bath and even that did not rid it of the smell. I then gave it a good spritz with cheap vodka (a theatre costumers trick for ridding odours). It helped but it is still there.....and it bugs the hell out of me when I wear it
 
Messages
16,649
Location
Central California
I want to support primarily small hatters moving forward. Unfortunately l have a beer budget besides Mr. P of Agnoulita are there other small hatters in the ~$150-$200 range I should consider for future purchases?

Not many. The cost of materials alone mean it’s hard to sell hats at those prices. Wolfbrae Custom Hatters is around your budget but that is only because he undercharges. D’Aquino is another option but I can’t personally recommend her…maybe her hats and customer service have improved in the last few years.

Having tried many of the less expensive hatters, I can say that you’ll often get a much better hat if you spend more. A $350-400 Gannon is heads and shoulder above my $200 Agnoulitas. There is diminishing returns and paying for name brands that drives up the prices on some. I haven’t seen a custom hat at any price that is better than my recent Gannons, but I might look for different qualities in hats than others.

I have another Agnoulita on order and it’s my first beaver from him. Mr. P also says his build quality is better these days so maybe my opinion of Agnoulita, which I’ve always liked for their price point, is outdated.
 

ILB Frank

One of the Regulars
Messages
143
I am seeking some clarity on vintage hat feel. I hope I am not asking a set of questions that necessitates a long answer that no one is willing to commit to answering, but the more I read the more I get curious... and a little confused.

Were all hats soft/malleable?
Do you know if hats were made soft or did they become soft as they were worn?
When did hat makers stop making hats soft/malleable?
Did using mercury in hat-making contribute to the softness of hats?

Thanks in advance.
 

Blare

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,661
I am seeking some clarity on vintage hat feel. I hope I am not asking a set of questions that necessitates a long answer that no one is willing to commit to answering, but the more I read the more I get curious... and a little confused.

Were all hats soft/malleable?
Do you know if hats were made soft or did they become soft as they were worn?
When did hat makers stop making hats soft/malleable?
Did using mercury in hat-making contribute to the softness of hats?

Thanks in advance.
I’m going to lean more towards… both.

I would say many vintage hats were sold open crown… intended to be hand creased at the store. So often less shellac was in the crown. However others… in my experience more western hats (and of course stiff felt/bowlers but that’s a different animal) contained more stiffness from the get go. This firmness sometimes can get reduced from time/elements/reshaping.

When you get into the later 50s and beyond you start seeing a lot more factory pressed creases which tend to be stiffer. Those also can soften up due to the above factors.

All of this is just my experiences. Others may have different experience and opinions.

Hope this answer was long enough per your prerequisite. ;)
 

belfastboy

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,839
Location
vancouver, canada
I’m going to lean more towards… both.

I would say many vintage hats were sold open crown… intended to be hand creased at the store. So often less shellac was in the crown. However others… in my experience more western hats (and of course stiff felt/bowlers but that’s a different animal) contained more stiffness from the get go. This firmness sometimes can get reduced from time/elements/reshaping.

When you get into the later 50s and beyond you start seeing a lot more factory pressed creases which tend to be stiffer. Those also can soften up due to the above factors.

All of this is just my experiences. Others may have different experience and opinions.

Hope this answer was long enough per your prerequisite. ;)
I have never held in my hands a hat that used mercury in the felting (at least that I know of) I did have conversations with a European hatter that had a felt from the 1940's that was a product of mercury use. She told me it was the softest most luxurious felt she had ever handled. My deduction is that mercury was used for one reason at least in that it raised the coarser guard hairs and made it easier to remove them......leaving the remaining softer under hair. So that would explain, perhaps, the softness in a felt from the 1940's and earlier. But the other bigger factor is as Blair suggests the amount of stiffener. The 95gr FEPSA beaver felts have that wonderful soft hand, easily creased and require minimal steaming to set the crease.....closest to vintage I have come across from a modern felt. But the downside is they are expensive.
 

belfastboy

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,839
Location
vancouver, canada
I want to support primarily small hatters moving forward. Unfortunately l have a beer budget besides Mr. P of Agnoulita are there other small hatters in the ~$150-$200 range I should consider for future purchases?
I doubt you will find a custom hat in your desired price range. My costs for a rabbit felt hat: felt, ribbon, liner, leather sweat run just above $100 US$ and up from that base price. I have no overhead as my shop is in my home. and all work is by hand. It would be near impossible to earn a living at this without machinery to gain efficiencies in the process.....BUT this equipment can total upwards of $50k. If you check Instagram/Etsy you will find a few hatters with prices not too far above your limit but be cautious to read the fine print as they usually offer wool felt, cloth sweats and cheap ribbon. I suggest you wait, save your pennies and go the extra $$ and get yourself a legacy hat you can pass down to your kin.
 
Messages
16,649
Location
Central California
I am seeking some clarity on vintage hat feel. I hope I am not asking a set of questions that necessitates a long answer that no one is willing to commit to answering, but the more I read the more I get curious... and a little confused.

Were all hats soft/malleable?
Do you know if hats were made soft or did they become soft as they were worn?
When did hat makers stop making hats soft/malleable?
Did using mercury in hat-making contribute to the softness of hats?

Thanks in advance.


Not all vintage felt is the same, even when limiting it to the “soft” felts used for fedoras. Some was made very thin and light weight…the felt you can blow a crease into. Some was much more substantial and molded “like clay.” Some was more substantial but had more spring-back. A lot of this was determined by price as well as the intended use or season for the felt.

Felt does change over time. The fibers can continue the felting process long after they have been made into a hat. The felt that has stopped felting is sometimes referred to as “dead.” This dead felt is usually the most malleable. However, the basic nature of the felt doesn’t seem to change that much. A $10 fedora’s felt won’t evolve into a $40 of the same period given time.

My understanding is that mercury caused the microscopic barbs on the fur fibers to stick up and allowed the fibers to lock together (felt) tighter. Some incredible felt of both the ultra thin light weight as well as the more substantial clay-like varieties were made after mercury was discontinued. Maybe it wasn’t as good as the older stuff where mercury was used, but I can’t say that for certain (I do suspect the best mercury made felt was better than the best post-mercury felt).

Of course, handling and shaping and reshaping can change felt in some ways. Weather/rain can also change felt. I personally believe those changes are most noticeable on modern hats where the felting etc. isn’t being changed but rather the stiffeners added to the felt are broken down.

I think the biggest decline in felt quality was caused by market forces. Men weren’t wearing hats as much and the hat makers chased a declining market. As men were exposed to hats less often they stopped being able to discern between okay and great felt, and they were no longer interested in spending much as hats weren’t the prestigious and important fashion accessories they had been. The reasons for the decline in men wearing hats has been discussed elsewhere. Post War, hats were becoming less of an everyday thing and more of an occasional item or even a novelty. I don’t think the decline in raw materials or in the manufacturing process were the big culprits; men just didn’t know or care about the quality of their hats. We see the same thing in lots of products. Few men know or care if their shoes are corrected grain leather or if their suits are full-canvassed or not. We saw Stetson making some exceptional felt just a few years back in their open crown beaver fedoras that can hold its own to a lot of vintage felt. Stetson discontinued those hats because the market wasn’t there not because of material or manufacturing issues.
 
Last edited:

belfastboy

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,839
Location
vancouver, canada
Not all vintage felt is the same, even when limiting it to the “soft” felts used for fedoras. Some was made very thin and light weight…the felt you can blow a crease into. Some was much more substantial and molded “like clay.” Some was more substantial but had more spring-back. A lot of this was determined by price as well as the intended use or season for the felt.

Felt does change over time. The fibers can continue the felting process long after they have been made into a hat. The felt that has stopped felting is sometimes referred to as “dead.” This dead felt is usually the most malleable. However, the basic nature of the felt doesn’t seem to change that much. A $10 fedora’s felt won’t evolve into a $40 of the same period given time.

My understanding is that mercury caused the microscopic barbs on the fur fibers to stick up and allowed the fibers to lock together (felt) tighter. Some incredible felt of both the ultra thin light weight as well as the more substantial clay-like varieties were made after mercury was discontinued. Maybe it wasn’t as good as the older stuff where mercury was used, but I can’t say that for certain (I do suspect the best mercury made felt was better than the best post-mercury felt).

Of course, handling and shaping and reshaping can change felt in some ways. Weather/rain can also change felt. I personally believe those changes are most noticeable on modern hats where the felting etc. isn’t being changed but rather the stiffeners added to the felt are broken down.

I think the biggest decline in felt quality was caused by market forces. Men weren’t wearing hats as much and the hat makers chased a declining market. As men were exposed to hats less often they stopped being able to discern between okay and great felt, and they were no longer interested in spending much as hats weren’t the prestigious and important fashion accessories they had been. The reasons for the decline in men wearing hats has been discussed elsewhere. Post War, were becoming less of an everyday thing and more of an occasional item or even a novelty. I don’t think the decline in raw materials or in the manufacturing process were the big culprits; men just didn’t know or care about the quality of their hats. We see the same thing in lots of products. Few men know or care if their shoes are corrected grain leather or if their suits are full-canvassed or not. We saw Stetson making some exceptional felt just a few years back in their open crown beaver fedoras that can hold its own to a lot of vintage felt. Stetson discontinued those hats because the market wasn’t there not because of material or manufacturing issues.
Great overview!
 

jlee562

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Messages
4,919
Location
San Francisco, CA
I am seeking some clarity on vintage hat feel. I hope I am not asking a set of questions that necessitates a long answer that no one is willing to commit to answering, but the more I read the more I get curious... and a little confused.

Were all hats soft/malleable?
Do you know if hats were made soft or did they become soft as they were worn?
When did hat makers stop making hats soft/malleable?
Did using mercury in hat-making contribute to the softness of hats?

Thanks in advance.

Just to add a few more bits to what has already been said...

In the grand taxonomy of hats, it gets reduced to stiff felts and soft felts. Derbies/bowlers/riding hats would fall under stiff felts, while other hats fall under soft felts. Obviously stiff hats were not soft and malleable. Under that, there was a much wider variety of felt grades being offered. Some, like the Playboy, were specifically designed as a lightweight hat.

As Brent notes, some other hats had utilitarian purposes. E.G. I have one of those BOP-adjcent, Austral-like Stetsons where the crown is soft enough to put in the campaign crease, but the brim is stiff.

Hats do tend to soften up as they get older, so we can't say with 100% certainty what a minty fresh 1900's Stetson would have been like. But I also don't think the hats would change so much in character that we can't imagine a decent approximation of what new would have been. I generally associate the stiffer, more modern hats with the transition to the blocked in creases.
 

Riby

New in Town
Messages
4
Location
Rovaniemi, Finland
@mayserwegener
Here are some more pictures of the hat. There was nothing but a blank sticker on the underside of the sweatband. When I peeled the sticker I found something under it. Maybe orange number four?

The plastic bag treatment reduced the smell quite a lot, but it’s still there. Next I’ll try to toss a tumble dryer sheet to the bag.
 

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Blare

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,661
@mayserwegener
Here are some more pictures of the hat. There was nothing but a blank sticker on the underside of the sweatband. When I peeled the sticker I found something under it. Maybe orange number four?

The plastic bag treatment reduced the smell quite a lot, but it’s still there. Next I’ll try to toss a tumble dryer sheet to the bag.
Where you would want to look for a paper label will be under the edges of the liner adhered directly to the felt usually at the rear or sides. Being the liner might be glued you may not be able to see too far under. But you can kinda pull back slightly at the edges with your fingers.
 

Riby

New in Town
Messages
4
Location
Rovaniemi, Finland
Where you would want to look for a paper label will be under the edges of the liner adhered directly to the felt usually at the rear or sides. Being the liner might be glued you may not be able to see too far under. But you can kinda pull back slightly at the edges with your fingers.
Right! Thanks to your tip I found this inside the lining.
 

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