The Greatest Men’s Hatmakers In The World Today
From $25,000 Panama hats to Italian flat caps via Japanese switch-backs, a hat is one of the most impactful accessories a man can add to his wardrobe. So here are the hat brands you need to know about.
There was a time not all that long ago when a man, no matter what his social standing, would not leave the house without a hat. In fact, throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th century it was generally deemed inappropriate to be hatless outdoors.
Up until the 1960s, men’s hats were proxies for one’s position in society, or performed a sort of tribal delineation function by hinting at what part of industry one worked in – bowlers, for example, were worn by gamekeepers and hunters before spreading to the working class.
Hats became an important tool in defining class boundaries too, with elaborate customs such as ‘hat tipping’ to acknowledge one’s superiors, but they were also used to blur the very same boundaries, and eventually hats evolved to become one of the more democratised male accessories.
Today, the baseball cap is, undeniably, the head of state, followed by its functional cousin the beanie. The former is heavily influenced by popular culture, the latter by the outside temperature. And so what of the other myriad hat styles? Well, therein lies an opportunity for imaginative styling because so few people wear classic hats anymore.
From fedoras and trilbies to Panamas and pork pies, there is a world of legacy hatmakers and creative newcomers that are today producing some incredible head gear with the potential to completely upgrade your look. After all, the man who wears a felt fedora or a woven Bogart is not easily forgotten. So if you want to be etched into the memories of those you meet, these are some of our favourite brands to do just that.
Hat of Cain
If you’re ever in Singapore, you must drop into Hat of Cain, whether you’re looking to buy some headwear or not. The store is an absolute delight.
Even though the brand was only established in 2012, it has already garnered a great reputation as Asia’s number 1 Panama hat purveyor.
These hats have been handwoven by local Ecuadorian communities since the 16th century, and are the perfect accessory to a smart summer look, or a great way to complement a more bohemian vibe.
Lock & Co
Perhaps the best known hatmaker in the world, London’s Lock & Co have been at the same St. James’s Street premises since 1765, supplying members of the British elite with headgear ever since. Thus you can be guaranteed that their craftsmanship is second-to-none – they are Royal Warrant holders after all.
Lock Hatters’ selection is vast and diverse, stocking everything from baker boy caps and fedoras to top hats, trilbies and baseball caps. No expense is spared in the sourcing of fabrics and materials, so your head will be in good hands, so to speak.
They don’t come much more American than Stetson, the cowboy hatmaker that has been handcrafting its wide-brimmed designs since the frontier days over 150 years ago.
Ironically, Stetson hails from Philadelphia on the East Coast, but has always portrayed the image of the western frontiersman. The original designs were stylishly functional, being both waterproof and exceptionally durable, hence they became a totem for American Western ruggedness and masculinity.
Today, nothing beats their Open Road hats – handmade in Garland, Texas, using 6X fur felt – for a sophisticated distillation of vintage Americana.
British hatmaker Kangol was founded by the Jewish Polish WWI war veteran Jacques Spreiregen in the 1930s, mostly supplying berets to the British military. But as the 60s rolled into view, Kangol began collaborating with the likes of Mary Quant and Pierre Cardin and all of a sudden they were on the heads of the Beatles et al.
Today, that iconic flat cap style is something of a Marmite product, popping up now and again on a celebrity skull and enjoying some limelight before vanishing once again into the fashion shadows.
The Kangol bucket cap is a whole different story however. Beloved of festival-goers the world over, the floppy cotton cap gained notoriety in the heady days of 80s and 90s hip-hop, sported first by LL Cool J then later Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash.
Kangol have faithfully kept the original design, adding a few different brim styles into their repertoire for an easy-to-style hat that complements modern streetwear.
Originating out of Buffalo, New York, you’d be forgiven for thinking New Era was a relatively modern brand. But it was actually the brainchild of one Ehrhardt Koch, who founded the company in 1920. Koch took a gamble on what he saw as the growing popularity of baseball and started making baseball caps, notably the 5950 snapback model, and, well, the rest is history.
After Spike Lee asked the company to make him a red Yankees cap, New Era was propelled into popular culture, with logo caps suddenly being the ultimate tribal sports merchandise.
Founded shortly after Lock & Co in 1773, Christys’ is perhaps best known for its stunning felt hats, meticulously handmade to the most exacting standards in London using felt hood imported from Portugal.
Indiana Jones’s hat? That was Christys’. Winston Churchill’s homburg? That’ll be Christys’. Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone? You guessed it. They also do a small but excellent range of eight-piece baker boy caps, and their Panamas are also very good value.
Borsalino is the oldest Italian hat manufacturer, having been founded in 1857, but this northern Italian icon has remained relevant to this day thanks to an innovative approach to design, staying true to the classic shapes but also evolving them with an imaginative passion for fine craftsmanship.
Borsalino hit the jackpot in 1930 when Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman wore their designs in the unforgettable final scene of Casablanca, soon followed by the achingly cool Marcello Mastroianni in 8½ and Jean Paul Belmondo in Breathless.
Borsalino have perfected virtually every style of headgear you can think of but in our opinion, nothing quite surpasses the timeless elegance of the Bogart.
We love a family-run business, especially one that has stood the test of time. Goorin Brothers – formerly of Pittsburgh and now San Francisco – is one such company.
From a horse and cart in 1895 to global recognition today, Goorin crafts exceptionally good value fedoras in a diverse range of fabrics such as 100% merino wool and hand-woven toquilla straw, and in a variety of different blocks and crown depths.
Their other mainstay is the aptly named ‘The Farm’ caps, which feature an array of animal badges on the classic trucker silhouette.
Another legacy hat brand, Mayser hails from Ulm in Germany and has been one of the world’s leading manufacturers since 1800. The company developed a reputation for its felt hats early on in its trajectory to becoming the world’s largest producer of hats, and it’s those very same felt styles that the brand is revered for today.
Their Bogart and Panama hats are also amazing value, plus they make more styles of flat caps than you could think would be humanly possible.
When it comes to baker boy caps and flat caps, they don’t get much better than Cappellificio Biellese, the Italian hatmaker that has been putting its heart and soul into its creations since 1935.
Committed to traditional techniques of craftsmanship that have been passed down through generations, the company – based in the Italian textile heartland of Biella – is led by designer Alberto Benigni.
The modus operandi is simple: bring together the best of Italian hatmakers with the best of the world’s fabrics to produce classic silhouettes with a contemporary twist.
The poster boy of modern bohemianism, Nick Fouquet’s beaver felt fur, distressed western hats are some of the most unique and sought-after designs you will find anywhere in the world.
Fouquet has developed a cult following for his hats – one of the few if only on this list to have bridged the gap between classic hat making and luxury fashion.
Immediately recognisable by the matchstick tucked into the grosgrain band, Fouquet’s designs are truly one of a kind, destined for the heads of the cognoscenti who want exquisite artisanship with beautifully dishevelled contemporary styling.
Don’t let the antiquated, clunky website fool you – Brent Black is one of the finest purveyors of Montecristi Panama hats anywhere in the world, with some of his top styles costing the same as a new family car.
Buying into a Brent Black Panama is investing in the survival of Ecuador’s handmade hat industry thanks to Brent Black’s foundation that assists weavers, the skilled artisans at the bottom of the food chain. Now, they only buy direct from the weavers, rather than dealers.
The Fedora is their speciality, offering five different styles (they have 17 hat types altogether) and all made in Montecristi, Ecuador, the Mecca of Panama hat making.