Want to buy or sell something? Check the classifieds
  • The Fedora Lounge is supported in part by commission earning affiliate links sitewide. Please support us by using them. You may learn more here.

Toppers Unite

Messages
17,188
Location
Maryland
My word, that hat is mint! Wear it with pride. BTW, may I use some of the images for my blog as I've never seen a nutria fur hat before now and it would be useful information.

How do you determine if it is Silk or some other material such as Nutria? I posted a P. & C. Habig Wien Topper a couple pages back and I assumed it was Silk but looking at Alan's C & K (by the way beautiful Topper!) I am not sure anymore. P. & C. Habig like C & K were known as fur felt hat makers.
 
Last edited:

Aureliano

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,753
Location
Macondo.
How do you determine if it is Silk or some other material such as Nutria? I posted a P. & C. Habig Wien Topper a couple pages back and I assumed it was Silk but looking at Alan's K & N (by the way beautiful Topper!) I am not sure anymore. P. & C. Habig like K & N were known as fur felt hat makers.

Alan's says argentinean nutria on the liner [huh]
 

Brad Bowers

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,187
How do you determine if it is Silk or some other material such as Nutria? I posted a P. & C. Habig Wien Topper a couple pages back and I assumed it was Silk but looking at Alan's K & N (by the way beautiful Topper!) I am not sure anymore. P. & C. Habig like K & N were known as fur felt hat makers.

I think you mean C&K. :) Some early hats like Alan's say they're nutria, but I have it documented that in 1924 C&K was importing silk hatter's plush from France for their top hats. My guess is that 1914-1918 hats are made from nutria because of the war, and prior to that and after that they were importing silk. What's strange is that the 1924 C&K Book states that they added silk hats to their product line in 1917, though we've seen evidence to the contrary that C&K offered earlier silk hats. Again, I'm guessing here, but I'm wondering if they imported the whole hats prior to 1917. I really have no idea.

Brad
 

Brad Bowers

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,187
Here's my C&K, almost the same as Alan's, excepting the condition, of course.

CKTopHat.jpg

Tip.jpg


Brad
 
Messages
14,982
Location
Buffalo, NY
Steve, my experience with top hats is very limited - I have one other plush hat that is a private label sold through B. Altman in NYC. The feel of this hat, which I have always assumed to be silk, is very similar to the C&K. I assume the nutria content is honestly stated but have no way to know for sure. The 1915 provenance does appear to be accurate. The body of the hat is not fur felt - a covering is applied to a shellac stiffened fabric body just as it would have been done if silk plush were used. As the silk plush hat defined the aesthetic of that era, perhaps it accounts for the look and feel of a fur covering being so similar? Only conjecture on my part, of course.
 

Brad Bowers

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,187
Charlie Huang pointed out that silk polishes to a higher sheen than fur. As I have only seen fur plush in person, I can't really compare, but the photos he posted a while back seems to show a difference in the sheen between fur and silk. I haven't bothered to give my top hat a proper polish, but if I get the binding replaced, I'll have to do that. And sew in the sweatband. And replace the merino.

Hey Charlie and Andy, and tips on replacing the merino?

Brad
 

newturnofphrase

One of the Regulars
Messages
251
Location
Canada
Merino replacement: proposed method

I haven't come across merino that needed replacing yet. The two options are to get it replaced at Patey or Lock or somewhere, or else do it yourself. If it's a nice topper, pro replacement is the best option since merino replacement is a riskier operation than replacing brim binding or sweatband (as these are merely mechanical operations involving sewing). At this point in my experience, I wouldn't change merino myself and would send it to a reputable hatter. However, I also like to experiment with things so I've thought about the problem.
 
Last edited:
Messages
17,188
Location
Maryland
Interesting. I only have two Top hats and they are both similar regarding the finish and by hat companies (Mayser and P. & C. Habig) that made fur felt hats. Neither has been highly polished.
 

newturnofphrase

One of the Regulars
Messages
251
Location
Canada
Also, I have a question: has anyone here had a chance to compare Christys fur-felt polished melusine hats with the goss structured fur melusine hats of Pateys or Lock? I know the construction is different, and I'd appreciate it if anyone who has examined either could tell me whether there is a noticeable difference in feel, style, or weight between the Christys hat and the others. They are fundamentally different structures, allowing the christys hat to be much much cheaper, but I was wondering if it actually made much of a difference to the final look and feel.
 

Brad Bowers

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,187
Thanks, Andy. I'll have to look at the bottom of my top hat at the office tomorrow. I think the merino is intact, just faded to grey color. Maybe I could dye it without removing it.

Brad
 

newturnofphrase

One of the Regulars
Messages
251
Location
Canada
I bought a top hat bucket on German ebay a few weeks ago that happened to come with a hat. I was mostly interested in the bucket for the top hat I restored. The hat that came with was an afterthought because the whole thing was so cheap (about $60 CAN total + shipping). There was only one photo so i took it on faith that it was in functional condition.

It arrived today and to my surprise the hat is in almost mint condition. It also appears to have been manufactured during the third Reich period. It was sold by a hatter located on "Adolf Hitler Str," and has a big german eagle on the lining. Anyone know much about this manufacturer or the value of large-size mint toppers from the third Reich?

Here are some photos:

dscn1217.jpg

dscn1206.jpg

dscn1207.jpg
 

Charlie Huang

Practically Family
Messages
612
Location
Birmingham, UK
Note that there are various grades of fur plush. There's beaver (which I have an example of in form of a bicorne made in the 1930s) which is as black as silk but the nap line is more random and not dead straight as silk plush is. Christys' and Patey's use a different fur plush each. Lock's use the same melusine as Christys' (I think they are made by the same factory). Patey's hats are rigid and heavy whilst the Christys/Lock ones are lighter and have some give to them. They are not made in town weight with one single layer of goss but thicker wool that has been blocked and then covered in the plush. Patey's uses many layers of goss and the plush they use is not than heavy. You really have to examine them and feel them in the flesh. Pictures won't really do.

Merino replacement: very difficult without the right tools. First, you have to rip the sweatband and brim binding off then heat the hat up to weaken the shellac in order to rip the old merino off. Then you must reapply shellac onto the underbrim (so the new merino would stick onto it), put the new merino on before ironing it and trimming. I do not know whether you need to uncurl the brim beforehand to do this but if you have to then it makes it even more tricky. Less of a hassle to get Patey's to do it. Of course, if you want Patey's to do it, make sure you send them a length of silk grosgrain as they told me that they don't have them. They'll probably repalce the sweatband as well unless you tell them not to. You have to tell them what and what not to do.
 

Charlie Huang

Practically Family
Messages
612
Location
Birmingham, UK
Actually, if you can find a hatter in America that has hat irons (the ones you have to heat on an open fire stove), you could attempt it. Probably be very tricky but if you have the merino (or silk serge) on hand plus the shellac solution (and guts) it would be interesting. You must make sure the iron is at the correct temperature as you want to avoid melting the shellac and/or burning the merino.
 
Last edited:

newturnofphrase

One of the Regulars
Messages
251
Location
Canada
Note that there are various grades of fur plush. There's beaver (which I have an example of in form of a bicorne made in the 1930s) which is as black as silk but the nap line is more random and not dead straight as silk plush is. Christys' and Patey's use a different fur plush each. Lock's use the same melusine as Christys' (I think they are made by the same factory). Patey's hats are rigid and heavy whilst the Christys/Lock ones are lighter and have some give to them. They are not made in town weight with one single layer of goss but thicker wool that has been blocked and then covered in the plush. Patey's uses many layers of goss and the plush they use is not than heavy. You really have to examine them and feel them in the flesh. Pictures won't really do.

Thanks Charlie. The reason I ask is because Lock told me they use the goss/plush method, but their hats are not distinguishable from Christys toppers on the websites, except for price. Pateys hats look a lot nicer, but the price is even higher. I've decided to delay sinking money into one until I get a chance to see and compare them in person.

You can keep the original sweatband and brim binding (obviously not on the hat in question, where the brim binding is destroyed already) if you have an otherwise good hat. Just cut the thread holding the intact brim binding to the merino. The merino should be removable without ripping if you use an iron as you peel it off. A household iron without any steam should do the trick, but you'd have to experiment to find out the heat that would loosen the shellac sufficiently. Start low, gradually increase.

Here is the original post I wrote a few days ago on the subject, with some edits:

This approach is just food for thought that I came up with after watching the old BBC doc on how patey used to make hats. I've never attempted this, but these are the steps I would take if I ever decided to. Charlie has done more extensive research than I have, so he could probably give more accurate advice, and I would listen his thoughts over my own.

First find a similar fabric. I would take the hat to reputable and well stocked fabric stores and ask them to match the fabric as closely as possible. Use authentic materials, not synthetics. If that doesn't work, you can try to find other sources. I don't do anything to my hats until i've sourced materials. Once you find a suitable genuine wool merino fabric, purchase enough to do the job two or three times (in case you make mistakes and need to start over it's good to have extra material on hand. Also, leftover material could be used on a future topper). The only time i bought just enough for the job was when I bought ribbon from mokuba since it's very expensive, and the process of attaching it doesn't have much risk of damaging it.

Remove all of the brim binding and the sweatband from the merino. If you want to preserve either, cut only the stitches attached to the merino and gently remove. Then apply a hot household iron (you'll have to experiment with the amount of heat) to the old merino until it loosens, then peel it off gradually, applying iron in gentle rubbing motions wherever it sticks to loosen the shellac that sticks it on. I've used a household iron to reshape the flattened brim on a silk topper with great success; medium heat applied gently to the surface should be sufficient to loosen the surface shellac. Don't use high heat for the reasons Charlie gives. Don't hold the iron on too long (generally two minutes or more) anywhere or you'll soften the brim itself which could misshape it.

Once you've removed all the old merino, take the hat and place it on the material you purchased. Attach the material to the edge of the brim with pins, making sure the warp is aligned to be straight front to back and the weft is a slight diagonal. Stretch it a little so it's taut against the bottom of the brim and not wrinkled anywhere, but not so tight it warps anywhere. Cut it out large enough that it sticks out on all sides of the hat an inch or two, so you have a little room for movement as you work on it. Make sure it is smoothly pressed against the bottom of the brim. Iron it on the same way you ironed off the old merino, heating up the shellac in order to stick it to the hat.

If it doesn't stick after the first ironing, you might try taking the fabric off and applying a thin, smooth layer of shellac to the exposed brim goss. Stir the shellac so it's not too much solvent, and make sure you don't let it drip and only apply a very thin layer of varnish! Dip the brush in the shellac and then wipe it a bit with a paper towel so you don't get big globs. The idea is to make the brim bottom just fresh and sticky enough to iron the merino to onto it when it dries (like an iron-on decal), not to saturate the brim. Thin surface coat. Then, when the shellac coat has dried, pin the merino back to the bottom of the hat so it's smooth and aligned, and iron it on. Make sure the whole thing is very smoothly ironed on, removing pins as you iron the edge. Apply pressure as you iron it by pressing with your fingers against the top of the brim opposite the iron. Cut out the head hole from the material, starting with an exacto knife and leaving a 1 cm edge sticking out inside the crown on all sides. Cut this edge at regular 1 cm intervals, not all the way in, but leave a few millimeters so that you can attach the sweatband to it. Glue it to the inside of the crown goss using the shellac method (you can be a little sloppier here, but make sure it's very strongly attached). If you are unsure of how this looks, you can extrapolate by looking at the extant merino of your hat prior to removing it.

Once the pins have been removed and the fabric is ironed on, iron it again to make sure that all of it is strongly attached to the brim. Then cut the outer edge of the fabric, so that it it is flush with the edge of the brim, removing all outer excess material. Then re-attach the sweatband and the brim binding.
That's how I'd approach it, anyway. Good luck fixing up the topper.

-Andy
 
Messages
17,188
Location
Maryland
Note that there are various grades of fur plush. There's beaver (which I have an example of in form of a bicorne made in the 1930s) which is as black as silk but the nap line is more random and not dead straight as silk plush is. Christys' and Patey's use a different fur plush each. Lock's use the same melusine as Christys' (I think they are made by the same factory). Patey's hats are rigid and heavy whilst the Christys/Lock ones are lighter and have some give to them. They are not made in town weight with one single layer of goss but thicker wool that has been blocked and then covered in the plush. Patey's uses many layers of goss and the plush they use is not than heavy. You really have to examine them and feel them in the flesh. Pictures won't really do.

Thanks for the feedback. I was thinking that ( You really have to examine them and feel them in the flesh.) would be the case.
 
Messages
17,188
Location
Maryland
I bought a top hat bucket on German ebay a few weeks ago that happened to come with a hat. I was mostly interested in the bucket for the top hat I restored. The hat that came with was an afterthought because the whole thing was so cheap (about $60 CAN total + shipping). There was only one photo so i took it on faith that it was in functional condition.

It arrived today and to my surprise the hat is in almost mint condition. It also appears to have been manufactured during the third Reich period. It was sold by a hatter located on "Adolf Hitler Str," and has a big german eagle on the lining. Anyone know much about this manufacturer or the value of large-size mint toppers from the third Reich?

Here are some photos:

I believe I have seen Conrad Böhmry before so I will look around see what I can find. Is there a paper label behind the sweatband? I have seen Deustche Mode used on hat boxes going back to the early 1900s.
 

Charlie Huang

Practically Family
Messages
612
Location
Birmingham, UK
Very sound approach, Andy. I say that the brim binding needs replacing because I have been told by Patey and Ascot Top Hats that the old ribbon would de damaged on removal (either because it is already worn or that the removal process would weaken it to the point of disintergration) but I cannot see how one cannot preserve it if you just be very careful. I suppose I would remove the trimmings before sending it to Patey's or godknowswhere.

In any case, I'd only attempt it is I got a proper brim iron as that is small enough to reach the curves of the brim rather than a massive household iron. I have a topper that needs the merino replacing as well due to extensive moth.

The merino is wool twill/serge and I suppose it can be had from many fabric stores.
 

Forum statistics

Threads
106,693
Messages
3,019,469
Members
52,282
Latest member
joeydavies
Top