Isn't there any effort to improve wool felt?

Discussion in 'Hats' started by Yohanes, Mar 10, 2008.

  1. Yohanes

    Yohanes One of the Regulars

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    Location:
    Indonesia
    We all know fur felt is superior to wool felt. But due to animal protection issues (but please, don't start this argument again - it's been battled lots of times) I think wool should be safer... you don't have to kill the sheep to get the hair right?

    So...

    Isn't there any effort, well, to process the wool in any way so it will give similar quality to fur? Mix it with certain chemicals or other material?
     
  2. Qadain

    Qadain New in Town

    Messages:
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    Location:
    South Florida
    Probably not, for the following reasons:

    1) The market for hat lovers who are also animal protectionists is probably not large enough to invest so much in improving wool felt quality.

    2) Most people that have an interest in improving felt (of any kind) quality are probably the ones that are quality-driven and work with only fur felt.

    3) Anyone interested in improving wool felt would probably be focused on improvements that decrease cost rather than increasing quality, given that wool felt hats are seen as a second tier product. Most people interested in higher quality hats would just move up from wool felt to fur felt.

    4) Wool felt quality is unlikely to increase due to "accidental discoveries" since the hat market is so small that anyone that might accidentally discover a way to improve wool felt quality is unlikely to realize it could be applied to hats.

    The above assume the following:
    1) The market for hats is relatively small.
    2) Fur felt is superior to wool felt in quality.

    The only way I can see an improvement in wool felt quality over fur felt is if a value-driven producer of hats accidentally discovers something that improves the quality of wool felt to a level higher than fur felt quality.

    Or if you come up with something...
     
  3. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    22,093
    Location:
    London, UK
    Indeed. As ever, these thins are market driven. I would suspect that the "fur is superior to wool" concept is so engrained in most of the market that it would be an uphill battle to market a "wool plus" material - rather like the market for electric guitar amplifiers where no matter what the technical advances, a very significant proportion of it will always remain fixated on a valve based technology that is largely considered to be obsolete everywhere else. Just as I've heard folks argue the "but it's the real thing" justification of valves even if they were confronted with a digital alternative that they would not be able to distimguish from valves, I believe that you would face a majority of the hat market that would be saying "but fur felt is the real thing" in the face of any alternative.

    A sufficient quality wool felt might provide a great alternative for a "vegetarian" hat but IMHO it would require hats to make a comeback to the levle of popularity they had in the thirties in order for that sensibility to provide a sufficient market to make it commercially viable.
     
  4. NonEntity

    NonEntity Suspended

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    Location:
    Southeastern U.S.
    There is already very good wool felt being made, and it's quite inexpensive, too.

    As discussed in my Beret Clinic not too long ago, such felt can be found in the better berets made in a couple factories in the Basque and Berne regions of France and Spain.

    I've recently seen some hats made of very good wool felt, as well, among them, Scalas, Dobbs, the Indiana Jones fedora, and a Greek Fisherman's cap, all less than $65.

    Perhaps you're thinking that some improvement could be made to wool felt to make it more like fur felt. Nope. They are, literally, two different animals. Wool felt from sheep is inherently less dense and more flexible; that's what makes it perfect for berets and caps. Fur felt from rabbit and beaver is much more dense and less flexible, but can be formed to stay in a wide variety of shapes; that's what makes it ideal for brimmed hats.

    Today's best wool felt is as good as it ever was and is as good as it will ever be. As, such, the business case for wool felt has already been made for anyone interested in buying things made out of it. When you try to make a brimmed hat from it, there are inherent limitations, and there are good options available if you can live with those limitations, whether it be for animal rights or your own financial rights.
     
  5. Joel Tunnah

    Joel Tunnah Practically Family

    Messages:
    524
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I doubt anyone buys a wool felt hat in a hat shop today and thinks, I wish this was more like fur felt.
     
  6. Yohanes

    Yohanes One of the Regulars

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    Location:
    Indonesia
    Hmm, while browsing on online hat stores sometimes I stumbled on certain wool hat advertised as more or less "smoother finish" "jet nap finish" ... something like that. Do you think those kind of "above average" wool can be considered as decent alternative for fur felt... let's limit the context to modern production hat.
     
  7. johnnycanuck

    johnnycanuck Call Me a Cab

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    Location:
    Alberta
    Smithbilt Hats

    Smithbilt makes a fine wool felt hat that stand up to the elements better then some fir felts I have owned. However it is not a smooth finish hat. It looks a little rough. But after four years of scout camps it is as soft as any other hat I own.
    http://www.smithbilthats.com/specialty-hats.htm
    its the Scout model.

    Johnny.
     
  8. besdor

    besdor Vendor/Sponsor

    Messages:
    1,726
    Location:
    up north
    No, all jet knapp is just buffing up a wool body. What some of the companies are trying to do now is mix wool with either fur felt or cashmere . There is a term called Dyna felt which has been used for years . This is a mixture of 90% wool and 10 % fur felt. Now Bailey Hats is using a mixture of 95% wool and 5 % cahmere . They call it cashlux . I call it overpriced crap. They are trying to charge more for a slightly nicer wool hat that is finished off on fur felt machinery.

    Steven
    www.bencrafthats.com
     
  9. NonEntity

    NonEntity Suspended

    Messages:
    281
    Location:
    Southeastern U.S.
    The only wool felt hat I have or have ever owned is a Dorfman Pacific fedora that I bought twelve years ago on impulse in a camping/hiking shop because the loden body and rust hatband was a spot-on match for the clothes I got there that day. The dimensions--2 1/2-inch brim and 5-inch crown when you pop up the pre-formed center dent--are a perfect compliment to my face shape and physical proportions.

    Everything in that shop was high as a cat's back, so I assume the about $40 I paid for it was way overpriced, but, I must say, it has been a darned good hat! Made of a thick, crushable felt, it's unlined, with a fabric sweat, and a 5/8-inch-wide leather hatband.

    When I don't want to mess up my good ones, this is the hat I wear, so I've worn it a lot--hiking in all kinds of awful weather, plinking in muddy creek bottoms, doing dirty yardwork. My head perspires profusely, so it's been wet with sweat hundreds of times. As for upkeep, I've done nothing more than brush it off. Yet, it refuses to die. In fact, it still looks 95% as good (or bad, depending or your point of view) as it did the day I bought it.

    Just yesterday, I had it on all day long doing my first major yardwork of the season. It was right for the cool morning, but by midday, it was near 70 degrees and really too much hat, but rather than stop and change into a straw or my Tilley, I forged on in it. I had just finished sweeping the curb and paused to admire my hard work when a UPS van whooshed by, blowing the hat off.

    Right behind it was a little red Mazda Miata that ran right over it--twice, no less, front wheel and rear wheel. With her top down (the CAR's top), she yelled "Sorry," but was laughing hysterically. I was scowling. I picked up the hat, de-flattened it, and slapped it on my thigh a couple times, imagining I was spanking the driver.

    Inspecting the old DP, I could see there was absolutely no harm done. My frown curled up into a smile, and I actually laughed out loud. I was actually disappointed there were no tire tracks on it. Ha-that would certainly give it panache! But the real basis for my disappointment was that I had no good reason to march out and buy a replacement hat.

    Wool felt. It is what it is. Sometimes, as in this case, that can be a good thing.
     

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