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Toppers Unite

Steve1857

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,618
Location
Denmark
Good grief, I can hardly handle the looks and compliments I get when I wear a derby in public let alone a topper. Lol

How to rent a top hat? Hmmm
If you lived in Denmark, I'd be glad to rent you one :)

It's actually quite a business in the UK. Hatters like Lock & Co buy up Toppers and rent them out at quite a hefty price. I guess there must be hatters in the US who do it, too.
 

CraigEster

New in Town
Messages
14
Location
Tampa, FL
If you lived in Denmark, I'd be glad to rent you one :)

It's actually quite a business in the UK. Hatters like Lock & Co buy up Toppers and rent them out at quite a hefty price. I guess there must be hatters in the US who do it, too.
I haven't come across any in the US that rent proper top hats. Some tuxedo rental places have modern faux-toppers like the Scala ones, and I know of one in New Jersey that has some collapsible hats.

Costume rental businesses in Hollywood have some but I wouldn't consider those normal rental shops. I have heard of some New York rental shops who have some silk hats, but they wouldn't have all sizes like the English hatters.
 

Steve1857

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,618
Location
Denmark
I haven't come across any in the US that rent proper top hats. Some tuxedo rental places have modern faux-toppers like the Scala ones, and I know of one in New Jersey that has some collapsible hats.

Costume rental businesses in Hollywood have some but I wouldn't consider those normal rental shops. I have heard of some New York rental shops who have some silk hats, but they wouldn't have all sizes like the English hatters.
If there's a market for rental Top Hats in the US as there is in the UK, then it sounds like there might be a business opportunity there.
 

CraigEster

New in Town
Messages
14
Location
Tampa, FL
If there's a market for rental Top Hats in the US as there is in the UK, then it sounds like there might be a business opportunity there.
I've chatted a bit with the English rental people casually. A massive problem in the silk hat rental industry is the difficulty replacing damaged or lost hats. Modern collapsibles are also awful in general. The stitching isn't close enough so there's gapping in the tip seam when the hat is expanded. These hats are made in Germany and they're all that rental places can get their hands on.

I spoke to one rental shop in New Jersey and the guy wanted collapsibles at $300 or less each and of vintage quality. Just a meter of proper silk grosgrain cloth is 180 GBP (not faille, but the proper grosgrain that's a match to the originals; satin would work as well but it isn't nearly as long-lasting and grosgrain is what a rental place would want for that reason), and then there's the matter of making a goss brim, executing a proper d'Orsay curl, and hand binding and finishing. Maybe if someone wanted 1000 hats it'd be worth buying tooling and making them at a large scale, but the guy also wanted only 6-8 hats. I did some napkin math and if I made new collapsibles the old-fashioned way and sold them for $600 I'd basically be making less than minimum wage after the cost of materials. I can make the mechanism and I have a prototype I threw together a few years ago, but it isn't worth pursuing when vintage ones can be cleaned up. For personal use it's fine but it's not a solid foundation for a rental business.

Hatters as a whole are a chronically underpaid cohort, and people wonder why all mass-produced hats have more corners cut than the floorplan of the Guggenheim museum.
 

Steve1857

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,618
Location
Denmark
I've chatted a bit with the English rental people casually. A massive problem in the silk hat rental industry is the difficulty replacing damaged or lost hats. Modern collapsibles are also awful in general. The stitching isn't close enough so there's gapping in the tip seam when the hat is expanded. These hats are made in Germany and they're all that rental places can get their hands on.

I spoke to one rental shop in New Jersey and the guy wanted collapsibles at $300 or less each and of vintage quality. Just a meter of proper silk grosgrain cloth is 180 GBP (not faille, but the proper grosgrain that's a match to the originals; satin would work as well but it isn't nearly as long-lasting and grosgrain is what a rental place would want for that reason), and then there's the matter of making a goss brim, executing a proper d'Orsay curl, and hand binding and finishing. Maybe if someone wanted 1000 hats it'd be worth buying tooling and making them at a large scale, but the guy also wanted only 6-8 hats. I did some napkin math and if I made new collapsibles the old-fashioned way and sold them for $600 I'd basically be making less than minimum wage after the cost of materials. I can make the mechanism and I have a prototype I threw together a few years ago, but it isn't worth pursuing when vintage ones can be cleaned up. For personal use it's fine but it's not a solid foundation for a rental business.

Hatters as a whole are a chronically underpaid cohort, and people wonder why all mass-produced hats have more corners cut than the floorplan of the Guggenheim museum.
Opera hats / collapsible Top Hats are not comparable to what I was refering to, nor what companies like Lock & Co are looking at for rental.

You can't collapse a silk hat.
 

CraigEster

New in Town
Messages
14
Location
Tampa, FL
Opera hats / collapsible Top Hats are not comparable to what I was refering to, nor what companies like Lock & Co are looking at for rental.

You can't collapse a silk hat.
Definitely, although in the US market they must be considered as a near-equal. Cost and convenience are a lot more important and there isn't much public awareness of the special characteristics of a silk hat.

Personally, a collapsible hat is more of a novelty and I'd always go for a silk hat.

I'm working on three silk hats at the moment and I've attempted to attach a picture of the three of them to this post. It might not work and I'll have to see how else I can get it on here.

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Last edited:

Steve1857

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,618
Location
Denmark
Definitely, although in the US market they must be considered as a near-equal. Cost and convenience are a lot more important and there isn't much public awareness of the special characteristics of a silk hat.

Personally, a collapsible hat is more of a novelty and I'd always go for a silk hat.

I'm working on three silk hats at the moment and I've attempted to attach a picture of the three of them to this post. It might not work and I'll have to see how else I can get it on here.
What work are you undertaking on the three?

I can see the first two seem to be missing their ribbons.
 

Matt o

New in Town
Messages
10
Sellers Pics:

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I just snagged this one with box and the cane. I don’t know anything about it aside from it’s probably over 100 years old…late 1800s/early 1900s?

I don’t even know if it’s beaver or silk….based off of measurements provided, I think it will fit.

Does anyone know anything about this hat and cane? I am pretty excited!

Thanks!
 

Steve1857

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,618
Location
Denmark
Sellers Pics:

View attachment 617751 View attachment 617752 View attachment 617753 View attachment 617754 View attachment 617755 View attachment 617756 View attachment 617757 I just snagged this one with box and the cane. I don’t know anything about it aside from it’s probably over 100 years old…late 1800s/early 1900s?

I don’t even know if it’s beaver or silk….based off of measurements provided, I think it will fit.

Does anyone know anything about this hat and cane? I am pretty excited!

Thanks!
Silk not beaver. Early 1900s.

Nice catch with the cane. Could well be an ivory top with a gold band.

Looking forward to more photos especially of the box once it arrives.
 

Matt o

New in Town
Messages
10
Silk not beaver. Early 1900s.

Nice catch with the cane. Could well be an ivory top with a gold band.

Looking forward to more photos especially of the box once it arrives.
Thanks!

The seller said the box was Bergdorf Goodman…if that means anything!

I will post more pictures next week!
 

Steve1857

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,618
Location
Denmark
Bergdorf Goodman is a high end departement store on Fifth Avenue New York. A definite seal of approval.

Looking forward to seeing more photos once it arrives, Matt.
 
Messages
17,735
Does anyone know anything about this hat and cane?

Could well be an ivory top with a gold band.
Hard to tell from the pic but I don’t see any grain for the cane handle to be ivory. I’m betting it’s celluloid or a phenolic resin. No signs that the shaft is painted so it could be Macassar Ebony. Don’t see any indication of a tip. In that era men would sometimes carry what was called a Swagger Stick. Much like a cane but shorter & smaller in diameter; not meant for support.

PS: on second look maybe there is a metal tip.
 

CraigEster

New in Town
Messages
14
Location
Tampa, FL
Hard to tell from the pic but I don’t see any grain for the cane handle to be ivory. I’m betting it’s celluloid or a phenolic resin. No signs that the shaft is painted so it could be Macassar Ebony. Don’t see any indication of a tip. In that era men would sometimes carry what was called a Swagger Stick. Much like a cane but shorter & smaller in diameter; not meant for support.

PS: on second look maybe there is a metal tip.
In regard to paint, I've come across numerous recipes for shellac-based black coatings for a polished black appearance. Most are basically lampblack in the shellac and sometimes with a natural gum or resin that is softer added to prevent cracking.

I have a couple old walking sticks and I wish I knew what their recipes were because the smooth, polished black finish is usually in great shape except for use-related wear.

I think the craziest stick I saw was made from a tensioned metal wire compressing a shaft made from stacked leather. It was moderately flexible but bounced back straight. The handle was similar to this except it was made from silver with (sadly mostly missing) mother of pearl inlay. Some of the silver was very shiny still so it may have been plated or sealed somehow, maybe with a thin coat of bleached shellac which the same aforementioned sources with shellac recipes discussed.
 

shopkin

Familiar Face
Messages
59
I have a couple old walking sticks and I wish I knew what their recipes were because the smooth, polished black finish is usually in great shape except for use-related wear.
Look up "French Polish". It's not a product but rather a technique using shellac to get a smooth hard finish on wood. It takes a lot of elbow grease but was/is the best way to finish fine furniture.
 

CraigEster

New in Town
Messages
14
Location
Tampa, FL
Look up "French Polish". It's not a product but rather a technique using shellac to get a smooth hard finish on wood. It takes a lot of elbow grease but was/is the best way to finish fine furniture.
Yep, I've done it a few times. I haven't done it with shellac that has additives and I imagine it doesn't come out as well with mixed shellac, but my experience is limited to Zinsser shellac used at full strength (3 pound cut). Incidentally, that's similar to some of the shellac originally used in top hats.
 

Steve1857

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,618
Location
Denmark
Hard to tell from the pic but I don’t see any grain for the cane handle to be ivory. I’m betting it’s celluloid or a phenolic resin. No signs that the shaft is painted so it could be Macassar Ebony. Don’t see any indication of a tip. In that era men would sometimes carry what was called a Swagger Stick. Much like a cane but shorter & smaller in diameter; not meant for support.

PS: on second look maybe there is a metal tip.
Some good points, Jack.

Looking forward to seeing more photos once Matt o has both hat and cane in his possession.
 

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