It's a big risk buying Borsalinos online, even vintage. In saying that, I recently purchased a vintage borsalino but it needed a lot of work to restore as it was moulded so badly, it stunk out my entire home when I received it. It was also advertised with the wrong size so I gave it to my brother in law once restored and it's his favourite of his 3 Borsalinos.
Why risky? I have ended up with three bootleg fake replica grey market borsalinos over the years. The first one is a proper vintage replica. Ebay, Australian seller. It looks like a hat borsalino used to make, with the same tassels and is good quality. The labelling inside says Bosalin imitating the font and line that goes under. See picture. I wrote to the seller who replied "Hi, I'm very sorry with the sizing mix up and the branding. I purchased the hat from a deceased estate, I was told by the children that it was a hat that had been in the family from when their mother was a child, they were not sure who originally owned it."
The second fake I own I bought new and was sent from a seller in the USA. Its a good quality hat, the leather band isn't great quality but the logo looks convincing enough. It's lining is fairly convincing. The size indicator was the initial give away. See pics. It had a metal badge with the logo on the outside that was poor quality and fell off so I can't show you. I have since seen this exact hat sold in several colours as dobbs and stetson with different logo badges from another US seller. I wouldn't say these are Chinese, maybe, seem like better quality fakes to me, maybe Mexican or European.
I recently thought I'd risk buying from luxury brand boutique websites. I say risk because while these seem to have brick and mortar stores and guarantee authenticity, reviews are mixed and usually horrible. Some user reviews didn't seem to be complaining about fakes but about the expensive and problematic return procedure when these companies send you the wrong colour or size despite them boasting good return policies. Some customers swear their "gucci bags" are real comparing the tags to others they bought at a gucci store. (Bags and gucci as example). How naive. So I ordered from one of these sites, the price was just too good to pass up. Then I ordered another of the same hat from another site. Both arrived swiftly from Italy and were packaged so well in the branding of the luxury boutiques. Both were the same Chinese garbage, worth $5 at best. The quality is a joke.
The tags are convincing though and the band around the hat. My friend said he can tell right away with the band though. It says inside 100% straw. They are plastic/nylon I promise you that. So that's not convincing, but holding it side by side with an authentic hat, the tags seem legit. I'm trying now to get money back from these sites but so far it's been a lengthy process. They've promised me on the phone the items are authentic and in wordy emails. The one has now offered a partial refund of $15 and I keep the hat but I've refused that offer. I'll post pics of a genuine borsalino panama and the Chinese fake. The pics on the websites are of real hats, not the ones they sell.
I don’t find buying vintage Borsalinos online any different than other brands. If you know what to look for and what to avoid you can find real gems on the vintage market. I’ve seen several hats with similar names to Borsalino where they are trading on the reputation of the Borsalino brand, but I have only see a couple hats that I suspected were counterfeits. You can also find some real Borsalino’s that are garbage; I’m thinking of the hats made by Bollman in the US when they had the license from Borsalino.
I’ve recently heard online a lot about how the pre-bankruptcy Borsalinos are so much better than to post-bankruptcy hats. That might be, but the quality of the hats made in the last several years before their bankruptcy don’t come close to the quality of the older hats.