How many custom hat shops are left?

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

  1. Andykev

    Andykev I'll Lock Up Bartender

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    A "Bespoke" hat, is basically a custom made to the client's specifications. You pick your hat body (some based on weight, stiffness, fur content, etc.), and it's color, the trim style for the edge (bound, welted, raw, etc.), crown height, ribbon trim, etc. The hatter should measure your head with the conformature and then use the conformer when they are making the hat so it is "custom fit" for you. A "non-Bespoke hat" is basically an "off the rack" and you don't get any options to change the felt, ribbon, etc. Most are pre sized (7 1/8, 7 1/4, 7 3/8, etc.)..but the hatter can "fit" you by steaming, stretching, and also blocking the style of the crease or pinch. I call these "semi-custom" in that the hatter will fit it to you.

    Art was a "bespoke" hatter, you chose the felt, ribbon, crown and brim dimensions, etc.

    Optimo hats I've had (probably 15 felts, 6 straw)..some where "off the rack" and others were simply sized custom for me (they have my measurements on file). Their hats are excellent, can be sized for you..and shaped to your liking...but they basically "pre make" the hat and then tweak it for you. It is close as you can get to a pure "bespoke" hat.
     

  2. Optimo does take on true custom commissions too. Max recently unveiled his Optimo that was inspired my Alan’s Stack fedora. This was not a tweaked off the rack Optimo but a full-on custom made to Max’s specifications. It’s also a thing of beauty.
     
    ChicagoWayVito and belfastboy like this.
  3. Rmccamey

    Rmccamey My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Mike at Northwest Hats has been running 3 to 4 months wait time for the last couple of years.



     
  4. Studebaker Driver

    Studebaker Driver One of the Regulars

    Bellfast Boy: Sorry your result with a conformateur was so unsatisfactory, I guess every experience can't be a good one.

    While in the hands of a buffoon, even the right tool will not insure success, a professional without the tools of his trade is working with a disadvantage.
     
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  5. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    It was not that it was such a bad experience...the hat derived from it does fit (albeit just a touch snug) it is that I have custom hats that fit perfectly without the use of a conformateur and of my custom hats from perhaps a dozen custom makers only two have used one. For me whether the hatter uses it or not is not a concern for me.
     
    deadlyhandsome and Frunobulax like this.

  6. I find this to be even more the case if you can go to the hatter in person and get a quick fitting. I don’t see the need for a conformateur then at all unless you are part of the small minority with a truly unusual head shape. When buying long distance, the use of a mail back conformer has more potential benefit. Many of the genuine conformateurs in hatter’s shops don’t get an use and are decorative only.
     
    belfastboy and Rmccamey like this.
  7. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    Yes, I would love to have one on display.....coolest gizmo ever!
     
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  8. Studebaker Driver

    Studebaker Driver One of the Regulars

    Bowman is the only custom hatter I've bought from, all my other hats have either been true 'teens/'twenties vintage (a dozen or so) or purchases of new felt & straw jobs; Stetson (3 felt), Akubra (3 felt) and 6 or 7 straws and about the same number of peaked caps.

    A perfect fit seems attributable to luck more than anything. All the Akubras are the same size but only one of them came out of the box fitting nicely. All the Stetsons are the same size but, likewise, only one of those fit well without fuss. I chalk it up more than anything to my gigantic square head (almost an 8), a birthday present from my dear mother's German side of the family.

    Only two of the new hats were truly perfect from the first effortless moment they settled on my head; the Panama from Del Monico and the western hat from Bowman. Having a stiff felt hat fit like that one was a unique experience in my blockhead life and I still love to put it on. My second Bowman hat is exactly what I wanted for color and other details, but after the passage of a year my head had either settled into a new shape like a sack of wet sand (always a possibility) or perhaps Bowman's translation/interpretation of his record of my head shape was a little freeform, allowing my second one to wander a little. It all worked, i soaked it and let it dry on my head and it, too, now fits like it should. The fit of that western, though... oof. It is true, you always remember your first...
     
    deadlyhandsome likes this.

  9. You found hats from the teens and twenties to fit a size 8 (“almost”) head? That’s amazing! I much prefer the fedoras from the 1940s and at my size (a few sizes small than you), they are incredibly rare. Many hat makers didn’t even make hats over 7 3/4 so congrats on such an accomplishment.
     
  10. Studebaker Driver

    Studebaker Driver One of the Regulars

    Yes, but I've been collecting about 45 years and many of those years yielded not a single find. The only explanation I have is that few people can wear hats that big, unless it is for comic effect. At estate sales, flea markets or antique shops, I find nearly everything to be under a size 7 or, rarely, larger than 7-5/8. All the common sizes get sold immediately.
     
    deadlyhandsome likes this.

  11. I’ve watched the vintage market closely for the last several years and I don’t recall seeing a single hat made in the 1940s or earlier that was above a size 7 3/4. I’m greatly impressed that you’ve been able to find so many.
     
  12. Andykev

    Andykev I'll Lock Up Bartender

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    I am lucky to have a nice "hatters tool" (amongst others) in my collection.
     

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  13. ChicagoWayVito

    ChicagoWayVito Practically Family

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    Very nice! Is it fully functioning or does it need repair? Most I see on eBay are in need of repair. Yours if the first one I've seen that is not all black.
     
  14. Andykev

    Andykev I'll Lock Up Bartender

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    Fully functional. Needs minor repair to the front size gauge. Not often do you see those. It's a poor photo. I can't find my "hats" photos.

    I'll have to pull this out of storage and take another photo now that we all have Gazillion pixel Iphones. I've had this for about 16 or more years.
     
  15. Tatton Baird Hats has a vintage conformateur on display, but the owner/hatter doesn’t use it and said said it’s not needed to get a perfect fit. With him making over 3,500 full custom hats a year I’d guess he knows what he’s talking about. Still a cool piece of kit!
     
  16. jdouglasj

    jdouglasj Familiar Face

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    I sent you a conversation message, but maybe this thread contains what I need to know. I'm ready to buy another hat. Chicago to Utah is about as far as I'm willing to fly for a two day trip. I've already spoken to Tatton Baird and so they are on my list. If you draw a line around and map anything within 2-3 hour flight (and a short drive after landing), what are your top picks for a custom hat shop.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2021
  17. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    we are blessed with great hatters on the west coast: NW Hats in Eugene, VS (now retired) but David has taken over the shop in Central Point OR, Penman in Portland, Black Sheep just outside Seattle, Gannon in northern Cali, Wellema in LA. But not much in between. In the other direction Brass Rooster in Milwaukee gets good reviews and if you want old time check out Batsakes in Cincinnati. Falcon Park makes a decent hat if they are still around....used to be in Chicago & Atlanta.
     
  18. jdouglasj

    jdouglasj Familiar Face

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    You are right that the west coast is blessed with many good shops. Gannon looks especially good. But it's just too far. Looks like Tatton Baird so far...
     
  19. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

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    tatton is about an hour south of Salt Lake, depending on traffic
     
    deadlyhandsome likes this.
  20. ChicagoWayVito

    ChicagoWayVito Practically Family

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    Just be aware that not all custom hatters actually have a physical location. I don't know that Gannon has a physical shop location or not, he didn't when he was still in Portland. I know that Black Sheep does not, he runs it out of his home. The only thing having a physical location does is drive up the price of their products in order to cover their expenses.

    I wouldn't necessarily make it a requirement that you need to visit the hat shop in order to get a great hat. The 5 customs that I have were never done in person, I took my own measurements and gave them to the hatter. I am also lucky to have two different conformateurs that I can use to check my measurements as well.
     

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