The right hat
I follow three different paths to creating a perfect hat. They all start with a good look at the customer.
A hat is in some ways the most intimate adornment or rather expression of yourself. Obviously, the hat covers you and shields you, but probably more important is the fact that it is an extension of you as a person and indeed a Sinnbild of the person you want others to see. A hat is so close to the eyes that even the most humble headwear is seen as a continuation of the face and eyes – and thus of the soul.
When I seek to find the right colour and style for someone who joins me in my little shop of wonders, I start with an unsentimental look at his or her face. Most of us are created less than perfect and I find that most customers prefer – even if it is a subconscious decision – to wear a hat that evens out some of this want of symmetry. I try to balance lines and proportions in order to bring out what is characteristic of a customer’s face. And while a hat is almost a two dimensional thing to new customers who just want to see their face and how the hat looks on top of that, I make sure they see it from all sides so they will develop a stronger sense of what that particular hat will do for them.
My latest customer actually just wanted something warm around his head for the winter in Stockholm. He had never even been thinking about a hat. Clearly it is a double pleasure finding a hat from the collection which suits him – and will keep him warm. And I loved that he accepted my proposal of a less formal hat in colours that suited him truly.
Just change your hat on stage and you are a different person altogether. Nothing is more defining for you as a person than what is above your mouth. The theatres have always known to use that on stage – and I have had the pleasure of contributing to a great number of theatres during the years.
While most of my private customers prefer headwear that complements them, a growing number is seeking what I would call a more theatrical solution. Typically it starts with the desire to find an unusual hat for a particular occasion – a Derby or a summer wedding. Later customers become bolder and even the gentlemen among them bring in their own ideas.
I can however despair at the lack of ambition in some productions and even the producers behind such elaborate period series such as Downton Abbey seem to accept sloppy and soulless headwear. I suspect the producers might have had more correctly crafted hats to choose from, but that they had their own preferences where the craftsmanship suffered. Personally as a craftsman, I would have preferred to work overnight to get the right look which also satisfied producers and director.
Quite a different set of customers are museums or indeed period films and plays. I have had the pleasure of copying hats from the last two centuries. The craftsmanship has actually not changed that much, but the choice of materials have and that is most inspiring for me.
Personally, I prefer to work in the styles that were prevailing in the period between 1910 and 1930. The craftsmanship was peaking at that time – and the styles were freer and even exuberant. Then by the sixties and early seventies our disrespect for formality really killed off the art of making and choosing a hat.
My mother always had sets of hat, gloves and bag that complemented each other. While I do not long back to the formality of those days, I just wish we all would allow ourselves a choice of more personal expression in our appearance. That is the reason why I have started developing my own line of formal outerwear, but that is story for another time.