How many custom hat shops are left?

Discussion in 'Hats' started by jdouglasj, Dec 21, 2020.

  1. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    vancouver, canada
    I have never come across a hatter that makes custom blocks to suit a client's head and I have hats from a dozen different custom hatters. Who do you know that offers that service? I would be most interested to pursue it.
     
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  2. jkingrph

    jkingrph Practically Family

    No idea but two brick and mortar shops in my general area. Atwood Hat Company in Frankston, Tx, and Mike's Custom Hatter in Longview, Tx. Never visited Atwood, but have had some work done at Mike's. some old Stedson hats had ribbons replaced, resized cleaned, new sweatbands & liners. Never had one made but have seen some of his blocks and samples of custom hats, both felt and straw, in all styles, but predominantly western , even top hats. Atwood is according to their website western, but still handmade in felt and straw.
     
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  3. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    vancouver, canada
    Yes, if you get into the huge world of custom western style hats the list gets very very long AND many of them while predominantly western in focus do offer Fedora styles.
     

  4. I think that the difference in bespoke and made to measure isn’t significant with custom hats. Do we go in to your bespoke hatter for a couple fittings before it’s delivered? Likewise, the idea of a custom crown block seems unnecessary and generally of no benefit, but a custom band block does make sense to me.

    If I order a hat, the hatter then places an order for the size, color, blend, etc. of hat body from the felter, the hat is block on the crown profile I’ve chosen and to the height I’ve specified, the brim is made to the width of my choosing and is given the flange I’ve selected along with the brim edge treatment of my choosing, a ribbon of the color and width I selected is sewn on, and a sweatband in the color and width I want is installed it seems pretty custom to me. I also get to select bow type, bow keeper style, open crown or hand creased by the hatter, liner color, width and color of brim binding (if applicable), amount of brim curl, the finish of the felt, etc.

    If the hat begins with disassociated component parts, including a raw felt hat body/capeline, and ends up exactly as I want it in look, quality, and fit then it’s checked all my boxes to qualify as a custom hat. There are a lot more than six hatters who offer this level of customization, as I know you are aware.
     
  5. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,194
    Location:
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    I think I may now qualify as a 'bespoke' hatter. Delivered the Indy style hat today to the client for the 4th (and final fitting/delivery) He was , to put it mildly, a difficult client. We met 4 times to nail down the exact style he wanted.....I said to myself if I don't get it right this time I am walking away from it. He, firstly is not a hat guy, secondly, he was not clear on what he wanted so it came to throwing darts at a wall blindfolded. Each time I made an adjustment, first to fit, then 3 more to get the bash /proportions correct. Finally today he said it was perfect, he loved it. Mission accomplished and I am now officially, kicking and screaming, a bespoke hatter!
     
  6. suitedcboy

    suitedcboy One Too Many

    OK, I misused "hat block". It is a block with a head form or whatever the proper term. I have the head form I got with a custom western I bought at an estate sale in attached picture on red background. Another is ashelves of head forms. I attached another picture of a block with head form I found via Google. This latter one is what I have seen in a couple of hat shops I've visited and was able to watch a little of what was going on.
     

    Attached Files:

  7. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,194
    Location:
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    I know them as band blocks. My understanding is they are given to the buyer as a takeaway to insert into the hat after each wear to help keep shape. Art at VS is the only one I have seen use it as a final step in helping to set the shape into the hat but the hat itself has been blocked on the generic Reg Oval, Long Oval or Extra Long Oval blocks. Art would use the conformateur if you visited him in the store and make you a band block for an extra $25. I am a standard long oval so just make my own.
     
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  8. jlee562

    jlee562 I'll Lock Up

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    Well, if a hatter has the formillion for the conformateur, it's essentially the same thing as a custom band block. That's the whole idea of the conforming process. The custom band blocks are just a bonus to keep hats conformed. I don't think custom band blocks were commonly used as a historical practice.
     
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  9. ChicagoWayVito

    ChicagoWayVito Practically Family

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    I found good use with the plastic conformateur (the same that Art used), made by Jaxonbilt Hat Company in Salmon, ID and distributed by Kathy of Cowboy Corral in Grants Pass, OR. I never made a wood band block using it by have done so with 1 inch thick hard insulation foam sheets.

    Anyway, I just put on order a 3D printed conformateur and formilian set (expensive) but the formillian will allow me to not hand cut and shape the green insulation. ;) Probably about 4 weeks before I recieve my order.
     
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  10. I don’t know if Art just kept records or if he kept my band block in storage. It was nice knowing that every hat from him was going to fit properly.
     
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  11. ChicagoWayVito

    ChicagoWayVito Practically Family

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    558
    When I visited Art he had a shelf of customer band blocks that he made from the conformateur that customers would send back in. Very likely Brent that you had one on that shelf.
     
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  12. jlee562

    jlee562 I'll Lock Up

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    If the Jed I. Knight video is a solid indicator, Art kept the conformer tracings and set the formillion from those.
     
  13. Studebaker Driver

    Studebaker Driver One of the Regulars

     
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  14. jdouglasj

    jdouglasj New in Town

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    How long are the wait lists at some of the hatters you know?
     
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  15. ChicagoWayVito

    ChicagoWayVito Practically Family

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    558
    4 weeks to 2 years and everything in between. 2 - 4 months is not uncommon.
     
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  16. Studebaker Driver

    Studebaker Driver One of the Regulars

    I've ordered two custom jobs from Parker Smith at Bowman Hats in Los Angeles, one a modified sort-of-Tom-Mix hat and a second one with less in-your-face personality for daily use. Parker was on his way through town on his way from LA to Oregon or Washington and he obligingly stopped by to fit me for the Western job. He pulled his conformateur contraption out of his case and clapped it on my head and ratcheted it around until he was happy with it.

    I've had hats that fit great right out of the box but this... nothing fit like that western. Nothing. It dropped on my head and felt like it was my favorite old soft felt. It could not have fit better. I had him make up the daily driver about a year later and, while it fit well, it didn't quite fit the same and took some breaking in.

    The conformateur and its counterpart that makes the "head" part, for fitting the hat, are crucial for that perfect fit.

    I have only one photo of the western; the hat has been cropped almost out of it.
    IMG_20200206_073406_497.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2020
  17. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    6,194
    Location:
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    Low end one month..... top end 12++ months. In some cases they have shut down their wait lists in order to catch up.
     
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  18. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,194
    Location:
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    The conformateur is just a dumb tool....the hatter's skill still comes into play translating the info from the tool into the build of the hat. Just as an expensive brush does not make a great painter neither does the conformateur make a great hatter. I have custom hats ordered on line that fit me like a bespoke suit and others built with the measure of the conformer that fit not so great.
     
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  19. suitedcboy

    suitedcboy One Too Many

    In 1978 I visited a hat maker in Lubbock on my way west. It was mid week and the gentleman was not busy and showed me around. In the course of conversation he showed me the band blocks and grabbed a block and said a custom hat from them might be the fix as a band block like my head shape could be used to make the hat and the brim would be formed flat or however I liked when it was made that way. I assumed that it was a common practice when indicated to do it that way. I know from the few other hat makers I ever watched working on a hat or in videos that a full block was the usual way. I know the formillion was a way that odd head shape was made into hat also.
     

  20. I have a long oval head and while my hats from VS made using a comformateur fit great my hats from Phoenix fit just as well and no comformateur was used. In my experience, a skilled and patient hatter is much more likely to produce a great hat than the use of a comformateur.

    I also have a band block that Art made for me and by inserting it and steaming the hat a few times, and leaving it in for a few days, most any hat in my size can be made to fit me very well.
     
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