Why not new off the shelf?

Discussion in 'Hats' started by guitone, Mar 22, 2005.

  1. guitone

    guitone Familiar Face

    Messages:
    94
    Location:
    New England
    I read a line in a post that said buying a new hat today is a waste of money, that one should either buy vintage or custom. I have been buying and wearing hats for the past 20+ years, started with a Dobbs, have some CT. Crushers and Baileys and just got a Borsalino cap....I like nice things but wonder about the above statement. I saw a Stetson recently that I thought was a great looking fedora, I favor lower crowns that on some hats and this one had the look I generally favor....so is it snobbery (no offense here), or good sense to buy custom or vintage? I am into high end guitars and bicycles as well and find that if one is careful you can find new better or at least as good as vintage, I would hope it would be the same with hats. I also know that for many it does get to become a passion and I will probably not reach that level, I buy what I like, what I feel looks good on me, not that label inside, it is about the look....any help understanding a bit more would be very appreciated.
     
  2. fedoralover

    fedoralover Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,006
    Location:
    Great Northwest
    Well since that was me that made that comment I'll answer the best I can. I just recently visited a men's store hat has a lot of new fedora's in Portland Oregon, "John Helmers". Their top of the line hat was a Borsalino Allessandria that cost $245.00. The felt was very thin and porous rabbit fur, no kidding now, it felt like 6 ply toliet paper. It looked fuzzy when it's not supposed to. You could probably have felt a mild wind blowing through it. The liner was glued in not sewn and the sweat band was really cheap stiff leather. The stitching around the edge was also very sloppy.

    I had on a vintage Borsalino that was also rabbit fur and also thin, But it is very very dense. So dense it would hold water for hours I'm sure. The leather sweatband is top notch, soft and pliable even after 50 to 60 years of sitting. The liner is sewn in and all the stitching is perfect. I held them together and the salesman was visibly embarrassed by what they were selling compared to mine. You can get one like mine for anywhere from 100 to 150 dollars on ebay. A lot cheaper and 10 times the quality. The older Stetsons, Dobbs, Cavanagh, Knox, to name a few can be even cheaper.

    Also for that same amount of money you could have Art Fawcett or Fedora make you one that would be 100% beaver, with a top of the line sweatband and stitching done to a perfection. Again, the quality for the same price will be 10 times better than the off the shelf new borsalino.

    The off the shelf fedora's are done in a factory rolling out 100s of hats a day with little thought to quality control. They use felt that is sub par because the general off the street guy doesn't know the quality they USED to be. People who have bought new stetsons have said that when they got wet the dye in the hat ran down their face and the felt shrunk up to look like a dunce hat. They just don't put the effort or quality materials into them nowadays.

    Others here can add to my comments and their own experiences I'm sure.

    regards fedoralover
     
  3. SHARPETOYS

    SHARPETOYS Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,425
    Location:
    Titusville, Florida
    Quality not a label or other hype

    With the hats that are factory made and what they cost it just makes more sense to buy a custom made hat. In most cases the price of factory is very close to a custom made hat.

    Now saying that the only factory hat I have found to be really decent is the Akubra. The 2 above hatters make a rabbitt custom hat very close to the Akubra prices.

    You know about the net and Ebay for older vintage. The bottom line is we sre trying to save you money and at the same time get you a Quality hat.

    Of course its your choice not ours.!!

    www.hatsdirect.com Don't forget to add in the shipping charges!! :)
     
  4. Art Fawcett

    Art Fawcett Sponsoring Affiliate

    Messages:
    3,659
    Location:
    Central Point, Or.
    Welcome to the Lounge Guitone,
    First, let me say that there are hats for every look and every budget and thats a good thing!! I can't add much more than Fedoralover has wriiten, only to affirm that his words are correct and I suppose after a while, with enough comparisons under our belt, we do tend to become a bit snobbish when it comes to felts. The differences between todays felting process and yesterdays is 1. basic chemicals allowed for the carroting process ( no more mercury) and 2. the labor cost VS 50 years ago. We live in a fast food, want it now society and it is reflected in most things. Since this is a hat section of the forum I would include most commercially made hats in that category. Even the best of names fall into that trap for purely economic reasons. That's probably why the most desired hats are either Vintage or Custom as the custom hatters using high beaver content felt comes closest to, but not matching, the quality of days gone.
     
  5. guitone

    guitone Familiar Face

    Messages:
    94
    Location:
    New England
    Thanks....it makes perfect sense but I had to hear/see it to understand. Not that different than my bicycles that are custom made, or my Martin guitars that are from the custom shop. I can input what I want and get something that is like what was made years and years ago. Of course I pay the price for these things and it would seem I will in hats as well. I have never seen these old hats so I will have to make an effort to see some when I can. There is a great hatter in New Haven CT, Del Monico's, but of course they deal in new hats only. I think I make a mistake finding this place, it is likely to cost me a lot of money.

    Thanks again
     
  6. fedoralover

    fedoralover Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,006
    Location:
    Great Northwest
    I also want to add that last year I was in Seattle and visited Bernie Utz hat shop. They have the largest collection of new fedora's in the Northwest. They had a Borsalino that was 100% beaver and cost $400. Now this was touted as a real supreme quality hat because of it being 100% beaver, but again compared to other new custom 100% beaver hats and the vintage ones, it just wasn't in the same ball park. I'll admit that it was better than the one I saw in Portland but for that much money the custom ones are still many times superior. In this case you DON'T get what you pay for.

    fedoralover
     
  7. You are no different than the rest of us here my friend. For me, though, it is all about the felt and the workmanship. The look is sort of the superficial part that gets modern Stetsons and Borsalinos over for many people who do not know the difference as Fedoralover said. It is indeed not the label at all. That is for the Nuevo Riche who are just interested in conspicuous consumption---"Look at my Hermes. Isn't it marvelous." No! :p
    It is tough to show you the difference from pictures but I think this may show you a small bit of what I am saying in the terms of materials used and workmanship. Take Borsalino for example. Here is the modern Borsajunko---err---I mean Borsalino sweatband and Liner:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Here is a 1960 Borsalino sweatband and liner:

    [​IMG]

    Now this is not the golden age of Borsalino as an example and it is not their high end hat. It is an apples to apples comparison. Notice the differences? Look at the stitching around the sweatband, notice the material size tag and not a cheap sticker on the sweatband (signifying size) that will be lost seconds after you wear it the first time. Then also look at the liner. Is it a boring two color liner like the new borsalino or is it a nice five color liner like the one seen in the 1960 hat that still shows after being around for 45 years? Lastly, look at the sweatband on the newer borsalino as opposed to the vintage one. the black hunk of junk even looks hard to the touch in the photo with less than desirable style to the logo and name thereon. The sweatband in the vintage hat is also likely to be made of a high quality roan leather that will conform to your head and not be abrasive to your forehead---if you wear a hat squarely on your head. ;)
    I hope that helps a bit and doesn't make you more confused. :p The felt quality has to, pardon the pun, be felt to understand the difference in quality. Fedoralover gave a good description and I need go not further there. :cool2:

    Regards to all,

    J
     
  8. guitone

    guitone Familiar Face

    Messages:
    94
    Location:
    New England
    Getting educated is the beginning of spending more money in so many cases, like this one.....now I have to find out how to size these, I know for instance that modern hats are different in size from one maker to another, so it will be hard to know for sure what to do if I was to try for a vintage hat, a custom may make the most sense for someone like myself... Where are the best sources for vintage, I am sure there are retailers that specialize in these, and i would assume that these come restored or should I say cleaned and ready for their new owner.
     
  9. BellyTank

    BellyTank I'll Lock Up

    I think many here, like me, are also looking for a Golden Era 'vintage' style-
    and a lot of that is about brim width, crown height, no taper, and quality of raw materials and detailing to achieve the look and style. Based on æsthetic appeal alone, most of the new stuff doesn't really stand up. The only real alternatives for people like me are to scour eBay and vintage stores for vintage, or get a new custom job.
    But if the available styles and quality suit yor needs and sensibilities, then there's no problem- but for the price of a top-end shop hat, you could do a lot better for the price in getting a custom hat.
    But personally, I've seen everything available on the web and taking into consideration what I've seen and heard here, I'll be putting my money on a vintage or custom hat. My taste is for the vintage style- maybe even a caricature of the vintage style.
    So that 'comment' strikes a chord with many of us as being sound sense.

    BT.
     
  10. Aaron Hats

    Aaron Hats Vendor

    Messages:
    539
    Location:
    Does it matter?
    The value of a mass produced hat

    I don't disagree with what's already been said but thought I'd add this.
    Having mass produced hats is vital to the hat industry as a whole as a way of introducing people to hats. I don't think anybody would argue that a custom made beaver compares to a mass produced fur from Stetson or DP but consider this. A lot of people have only ever worn a baseball cap and don't even know their hat size in a small, medium or 7, 7 1/8, etc. For them to seriously consider something besides a ballcap is the first vital step in creating a true hat wearer. Now that person will never go from wearing a ballcap to wearing a $300+ hat. It just won't happen. But they will consider a $50-75 hat. Some people won't even start that high. As I'm working with that customer I'm also educating them about the differences in the hats they're interested in. Whether it's a teenager or a 40 something and they buy their first real hat it's a wonderful thing. They'll enjoy that hat and once they start getting compliments about it they'll be back in a hat store and looking at hats that are a little more expensive until one day they're going for that beaver. Just like every creature has a place in the food chain, every hat has a place in the hat chain.

    Just one mans view,
     
  11. Art Fawcett

    Art Fawcett Sponsoring Affiliate

    Messages:
    3,659
    Location:
    Central Point, Or.
    You are absolutely right Aaron. Thats why my first statement was made. Having all types and prices is a good thing!! As grizzled old hat wearers we get spoiled because we have already worked our way up the chain, so to speak. :cool2:
     
  12. artboynyc

    artboynyc New in Town

    Messages:
    31
    I think both Art and Aaron make excellent points. I'd also like to point out that there are good hats being made today: posters on this forum have had good things to say about Lagomorsino (from JJ Hatters) and Cervo (from Worth and Worth). I have a Portfo Fino and a Knox, both from Levine Hat Co. in St. Louis, which show no signs of wear after years of heavy usage.

    But both of my hats cost around $150 (if I recall correctly). A new Cervo starts around $185. Still, a new custom from Art can start from $125! If I had known about that a few years back, I'm pretty sure that I would have a shelf full of custom hats.
     
  13. guitone

    guitone Familiar Face

    Messages:
    94
    Location:
    New England
    How does one get in touch with Art Fawcett or Fedora for custom hats...I could not find Art on a search?

    Thanks again
     
  14. Victor

    Victor One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    187
    You want to find Art? Um...look two posts up...
     
  15. IndianaGuybrush

    IndianaGuybrush One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    232
    Click on his avatar in the post above and click 'view public profile'. this will bring you to Art's frofile, which has a link to his web page. :)
     
  16. SHARPETOYS

    SHARPETOYS Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,425
    Location:
    Titusville, Florida
  17. Dave McCone

    Dave McCone New in Town

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    As a relative newcomer, I'd like to come to the aid of hat shops, which typicallly sell off-the-shelf product.

    I would point out that the advantage of a hat shop is that there are hats there that are available to try on. This is invaluable for somebody new to hats, since they don't always know what style of hat would "work" best on them. Once I decided on getting a hat, I probably spent a good 45 minutes to an hour in Byrnie Utz here in Seattle, and was able to come away with what I felt was a very nice hat -- and the knowledge of what worked (and didn't work) for me. Since the hatter has spent a lot of time with me, and provided me with a hat that looks great, I don't have a problem with buying from them. True, it may not be the best quality hat in the world - but part of what I'm buying is the knowledge gained from trying on all those other hats.

    Once you know what looks good on you, *then* you generally have the confidence to bid on a vintage hat on Ebay, or to order from Art, or Robert, or Fedora. As a newbie, making the plunge into ordering a hat based merely on a picture is a huge jump of faith if you don't have the educated eye you get from the first part of the process.

    Lastly, it's difficult to rationalize buying a high-end hat to start out with. If you are an occasional hat wearer, you probably can't justify spending several hundred dollars for a custom made beaver hat or a fino fino. However, if you are a serious hat wearer and it's become part of your signature style, then spending top dollar for top quality starts to make sense.
     
  18. Canadave

    Canadave One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,284
    Location:
    Toronto, ON, Canada
    Welcome guitone! One more tip...if you're bidding on a hat on eBay, CONFIRM the size by emailing the seller. Have them measure along the sweatband and send you the measurement in inches or cms. Then compare here.

    David
     
  19. I think what we are losing sight of here might be the fact that knowledge is power when looking for anything vintage or new for that matter. My previous comments might have been misconstrued as being snobbish but they were also meant as advice on how to get the most for your money by knowing what you are looking at. I mean, who could call me a snob because I am cheap and smart enough to find WWII era hats that fit me on auction sites and such for $10? :p I think that is about as entry level as you can get. Heck, I might even dumpster dive for a 1940s Dobbs Palomino. ;)
    It is not what you pay for something it is what you get for the money. That is my point. With a little study of what is contained right here on this site, a person can go out and find a great hat for almost nothing. You just have to be willing to spend the effort.
    Not only are vintage hats a great deal but custom hats are too. They fit better, are better made and the workmanship is better. That being said, I do acknowledge that there is a place for off the rack hats. I just do not like people paying too much for a hunk of junk and then becoming soured on hats because the first time they wore it in the rain the color ran and it tapered like a candle. :p I want their first experience to be good and their subsequent experiences to be even better. Knowledge as to what to look for in a hat will do a world of good for all.
    Lets face it, the people behind the counter in an off the rack hat shop do not know felt from pelt. You have to go in knowing what it is you are looking for or at least have a general idea. You will not only know what looks good on you when you see it but you will know if it is well made and from fine materials.
    I hope this clarifies a bit---probably not. :p

    Regards to all,

    J
     
  20. guitone

    guitone Familiar Face

    Messages:
    94
    Location:
    New England
    Thank all who have helped me with info, links, advise...it is very much appreciated. I see a new better hat in my near future.
     

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