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Dudes of the Derby

With so much excitement surrounding preparation for the Parade of Hats at the upcoming races, I wanted to take a moment to recognize a group that is often overlooked for their hat fashions on Derby day. MEN! The tradition of wearing hats at horse races started in the United Kingdom long before the start of the Kentucky Derby. Men wore top hats and would never be seen in public without their hat. When the Derby started in 1875, it was still customary for men to wear hats, but as time went on the prevalence of men’s hats at the races started to dwindle as women continued to don over the top designs.

In recent years, we have seen the fashionable males bringing hats back to the races, but the styles have changed from the top hat days. Men are choosing hats that reflect their personal style and make a statement at the same time.

Mr. Hugh Hefner seen here with his “Girls Next Door” stars went for the classic straw fedora in 2008. He understands that the ladies are the stars of the Parade of Hats, but that is no reason that a man can’t be dapper as well.



In 2008, Dwayne Wade was ahead of the stingy brim trend, with this great straw fedora. The tobacco colored straw hat was the focal point of his ensemble with an understated cream suit, proving that the hat can be the star of your Derby outfit even without having feathers and flowers.



Joey Fatone, former boy band member turned actor turned television game show host is not always known for his fashion sense. But he did a great job of keeping things casual while still being Derby appropriate at the 2009 races. He wore a classic grey suit with black sneakers and a great black snap brim fedora. I like a guy that doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Kentucky Derby Horse Racing


At last year’s Derby, the guy that turned heads with his hat style was without a doubt, rocker Pete Wentz. He went for a throw back with his Newsboy cap, bowtie and high socks. Some said that he looked like he was wearing a costume, but I think he looked great. The Derby is a day when you can step out of your normal fashion comfort zone and get creative.



So while you are sipping Mint Juleps in the hot sun, Guys, don’t forget your lids. - Shannon

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Get Your Green On – St. Pat’s Hats

March 14th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Hats in the News

Why not a little history lesson in honors of St. Patrick’s Day? 

March 17th is believed to be the day that St. Patrick passed away in 461 AD.  Since that time, Irish Christians have celebrated this day as a holy day.  

Traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day was a day where businesses would be closed and churches would hold a special mass to celebrate the feast of St. Patrick. 


This would be a day to celebrate.  The holiday falls within the observance of Lent where Catholics give-up things like sweets, alcohol and other vices as penance.  St. Patick’s Day was one day during Lent when Irishmen could have a break from Lent and enjoy a pint or two.


The first celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in Colonial American took place in Boston in 1737.  New York City followed with a parade and celebration in 1762.


In the 1840’s a large influx of Irish moved to American to escape the potato famine.  After that time, St. Patrick’s Day started to be recognized as a National Holiday.


Somewhere along the lines Americans started wearing green in observance of this holiday.  So pull out your bowlers and green Gatsby hats, have a pint or two and say a cheers to St. Patrick.


Images and information came from this video.  Check it out to see the full story of St. Patrick’s Day.  -Shannon

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Mixed Business Loves Hats!

February 28th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Hats in the News

I am very excited to share the details of a new collaboration between Hats in the Belfry and Mixed Business, a band local to Baltimore.  Mixed Business has an Americana sound that resonates with so many of our customers.  Not to mention the fact that the members of the band are hat lovers, and hat lovers always find their way to Hats in the Belfry.


In preparation for their upcoming album, Mixed Business had a photo shoot at our Fells Point shop wearing their favorite hats from the Belfry line.  Even though it was a rainy day, the band got some great shots. Each member chose a hat that complimented their personality and personal style. 

Brian Forte who sings, plays the guitar and picks a mean banjo chose the Belfry Jazz in brown.  A classic snap brim style that looks great with the brim up or down.


Mark O’Dell who sings lead vocals while playing the guitar, mandolin, steel drum, or an obscure percussion instrument you haven’t seen since your days in the middle school band  chose the Belfry  Gibson, the favorite cap among many of our staff members.


Joey Mitchell a master on the 5 string upright bass chose the Belfry Volare, a great casual fedora style.   This crushable fedora is great for someone who is looking for the fedora fit without being too formal.


Now for the exciting part…Mixed Business’ new album is set to be released in March.  They will be performing at three venues close to our Hats in the Belfry locations.  The first show is scheduled for Saturday, March 26th at Mick O’Shea’s in Baltimore.  They are offering to wave the cover charge for anyone who wears one of their favorite Belfry hats to their show!  And in support of the band, we are offering a 20% discount on the purchase of one hat to anyone who attends one of their release parties, or brings a copy of their CD to one of our shops.


CD Release Party

Saturday, March 26th

Mick O’Shea’s, 328 N. Charles Street

Free Admission if you wear one of Mixed Business’ favorite Belfry hats!

20% off the purchase of one hat with copy of Mixed Business CD

or attendance at the record release party!


We hope to see you at the Baltimore release party!  To learn more about Mixed Business, visit their website http://www.mixedbusinesstrio.com.  And check our Facebook page for upcoming details about additional record release parties in Washington, DC and Annapolis, MD.


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Halloween Party Contest!!!

October 17th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Hats in the News


This is the time of year that people host some very creative parties and we want to hear about yours!  Are you hosting a themed Halloween Party this year?  Are you having friends dressing up as Gangsters and Girls, Thriller characters or Old Hollywood, perhaps?  We are strong believers that a hat will complete your Halloween costume, so this year, Hats In the Belfry is hosting our first ever Halloween Party Contest! 


Belfry Topper

How to Enter: Tell us your best idea for a themed party with the details like food, decorations, costume requirements, etc.  Get creative and as detailed as possible.  Email your submissions to hats@hatsinthebelfry.com and include “Halloween Party Contest” in the header.

The Prize: The person with the best theme idea will win a party pack of 8 Belfry Brand hats for free!


Belfry Bowler

Submissions must be received by Friday, October 22, 11:00!

Check out our facebook page for additional details and have a Happy Halloween!


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Beat The Heat In The Dog Days Of Summer!

Summer is in full swing, as I’m sure you can feel. Temperatures this summer have been record breaking in some parts of the country and here on the east coast, we have felt the sun in full force. Most of us need to be reminded about sun safety. Are you being smart? It’s no mystery as to why millions of Americans are diagnosed with some type of skin cancer every year. Yeah, we have all seen the commercials and magazines with all the sun-kissed looks that are trendy this summer, but at what risk? What’s even trendier is rockin’ your natural healthy glow with some fashionable accessories that help you beat the heat.

According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, the average human only needs to spend approximately 5 to 30 minutes, twice a week in the sun to get the proper amount of vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential to the body because it helps absorb calcium, which in turn makes for stronger bones. In the summer months most people spend hours at a time in the sun on a daily basis. Some for a fun day at the beach, and others might have a job that requires them to work outside. The fact is that Americans, as a whole, get too much sun exposure and if you don’t know by now, too much sun causes premature aging and heightens the risk for developing skin cancer down the road. I know this all sounds a bit scary and the thought of wrinkles just puts a damper on things, but don’t sweat it, there are some fun and easy ways to beat the heat!!!

Sunscreen is not just for the beach people! It’s a great habit to always apply sunscreen on a regular basis. Even on a cloudy day you can still get burned. You never know when you might get caught in the summer sun! Try to use at least SPF 30, especially if you are fair skinned. Umbrellas are a great way to beat the heat as well, providing us with some much needed shade (and some of them can be pretty cute). Whether you’re at the beach where there is no escape from the sun, or walking around town window shopping; a large umbrella could really come in handy.

Sunscreen and umbrellas are all good, but hello…it’s summer time! Summer is a time to have fun, let loose and express yourself and your sense of style. What better way to do that than with some fabulous summer hats. We are all about beating the heat with style! We recommend our

Protection Collection
for the most protection from the sun’s rays, blocking up to 50 UPF (which is equivalent to 50 SPF in a lotion). We have a variety of styles, colors and brim sizes, and most of them pack right up, making them super easy to take with you where ever you may go this summer. So ladies, did you just buy the perfect swimsuit for a weekend at the lake? Well why not dress is up with a fashionable sun hat that provides you with enough protection and shade, making the sun’s rays the least of your worries. Same goes for you gentlemen! Going golfing with the boys?? You need some stylish protection too. Have fun this summer without worrying about the heat! Protect yourself with style!

No more excuses because of the sun. Beat the heat this summer and every summer the smart, stylish and fun way. Have fun and be trendy without the risk of sun expose. Beat the heat with style!!!

- Ashley

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Panama Hats: From Their Hands To Your Heads!

Panama hats are one of the oldest, most classic fashion accessories, made famous by men such as Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. There is an essence of superior quality that is embedded in these hand woven hats. At first glance, appearing as linen or silk, the master weavers of Ecuador have made their living one weave at a time. So how did these legendary hats make it from an outpost just south of the equator to the windows of NYC, and why do some pay thousands of dollars for just one hat? Maybe you would like to know why they are called panama hats, when in fact they are and always have been made in Ecuador by Ecuadorians!

Let’s go back to the mid 1800’s, when the Ecuadorians first started to export their hats. They exported their hats through the Isthmus of Panama. There they were sold and made their way to various places around the world. During the Spanish American War in 1898, the U.S. purchased 50,000 hats for the troops from merchants in Panama, which is thought to be one way the hats got their name. However, during the construction of the Panama Canal in the early 20’s, these hats were given to the workers to protect them from the sun. You can understand now why these hats were thought to be from Panama.

The long road to the New York City shops (and of course to Hats in the Belfry) all starts in a coastal village in Ecuador known as Cadeate. There are five days in every lunar cycle where Ecuadorians harvest toquilla straw (carludovica palmate), which is the straw that goes into creating the wonderful hats. These palm-like, 5-10ft tall, wild plants are scheduled for harvest five days after the moon reached its waning quarter. The reason for this is because at that time the straw holds less moisture, making it lighter, easier to cut and more pliable to weave. The Village Council requires 1,200 stalks to be harvested per family each day during the five day cycle. From there mules and trucks transport the stalks to a place where the straw can be separated into strands. The outer sheath of each stalk it stripped off and not used in the making of the hats. The inner fingers of the stalks are split into dozens of yard long ribbon-like strands and are still attached to the leaf stem. After the proper preparation the stalks then go into a vat of boiling water for one hour and then are hung out to dry.

Once the straw is dry, it’s ready to be woven by a master weaver. Two generations ago there were approximately 2000 master weavers. However, today there are only approximately 20 master weavers. The weave is very specific and if you know what you’re looking for you can pick out an authentic panama weave. The easiest way to tell is by looking at the top of the hat. It should always be woven in a circular pattern and usually somewhere on the inside of the hat you may see the official Ecuador stamp. The edges of a high quality panama hats are always woven back into the brim, never trimmed and then sewn like lesser quality panama hats.

Once the Weave is complete, the straw for the hats is then washed and pummeled. This process provides regularity, flexibility and suppleness to the straw. The sides and the crown of the hat are then beaten to even out the straw even further (another art unto itself). Once that’s finished, the straw can be dyed various colors, if chosen, or bleached or left its natural color. The most common colors of panama hats are natural or bleach white. Once the color of the straw is decided, it’s blocking and ironing time. Not all Panama Hats are ironed and blocked in Ecuador anymore in this modern day age. For instance, a hats company can order the woven panama straw and then perform the ironing and blocking process themselves. This saves money for many companies and also saves master Ecuadorian weavers lots of time. The ironing process removes undulation in the straw. Hand blocking is then done with steam and an iron or a steam press to produce many familiar styles such as gambler and planters.

The process of making a Panama hat can take 2-3 months to complete depending on the artisan weaver. Each hat is weaved and blocked by a single artisan. Of course there are different levels of quality of panama hats. In Ecuador there are two main places that produce panama hats. The city of Montecristi is where the highest quality hats are made, known as “superfinos”. What that means is that these hats will have up to 1600-2000 weaves per square inch and should be able to hold water as well as pack up enough to be able to fit through a wedding band. Those are the Panama hats that cost thousands of dollars. The other city in Ecuador is Cuenca. This city produces a more economical alternative, producing hats with 100 or fewer weaves per square inch, making it possible for everyone to own their very own Panama hat.

From the fields of Cadeate, up through the Panama Canal, to the windows of NYC and the shelves of Hats in the Belfry, to the heads of the most fashionable, Panama Hats are classic and are some of the most beautifully hand crafted products created in the world. Unfortunately, some fear that the Ecuadorian Panama Hat industries will only continue for the next 15-20 years due to cheap imitation from china. So don’t be fooled, and don’t except anything but true quality in your Panama hat.

- Ashley

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It’s Apples and Oranges, Right?

June 7th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Hats in the News

We’ve all been in a mall at SOME point in our lives, right? The majority of us have probably been in some mall within the past two weeks. Some of us may have been in a mall as recently as yesterday. It has become the staple of American society, and as the list of items to be consumed grows, and the number of retailers happy to help you consume them balloons, we’re often left in a vexing position.

Let’s say you walk into Nordstrom and you’re leafing through a rack of Rock Republic jeans, none of which are under $175. Sure they look good, yeah they feel great, and they have a recognizable name, but is it enough to convince you to buy them? You decide to think about it, and do a little more shopping. You walk into Macy’s, and find some jeans that have some design on the back pockets, they look pretty good, and they feel alright. Best of all, they’re only $40.

Seems like a steal, right? One would suppose, except that you really don’t know why one is $135 more than the other, or at least most of us don’t. I’m sure Rock Republic would be more than happy to sell you on their jeans, as would the less expensive jean company, but often times that information isn’t immediately available when you are ready to make your purchase. So you make your decision based on other factors (economic, your personal style, affinity for brand names, etc.).

How are you
supposed to know the difference between style and value?

There lies the puzzle that we’re left to figure out. We as the consumer (and though I have a retailer perspective, my everyday life makes me a consumer) are constantly bombarded with a variety of styles, colors, materials, and perhaps most importantly, prices, yet we have little knowledge as to why things cost what they do.

This has become an interesting puzzle for the retailer as well, especially when you see a boom in your particular industry. Hats became a bigger part of everyday fashion a little over a year ago. Now every clothing retailer that is anybody has hats as a part of their “look”, from Express to Banana Republic, to even Target. Hell, you can walk into Walmart and probably find a $10 fedora.

With all of the options out there, who’s job is it to educate the consumer? Perhaps more importantly, does the consumer even care? I suppose it depends on who the consumer is, and what they’re looking for. Still, somewhere along the line, many of us will be in a position debate between a $40 item and a $150 item. Do we have the right information to make the best decision?

- James

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In the Industry: What new trends will emerge from this year’s Derby series?

As May 1st fast approaches, and horse racing and the headwear industry gears up for another exciting derby season, I can’t help but wonder: what new trends will emerge from this year’s Derby series? Nowadays it is difficult to open a fashion magazine or turn on an awards show and not see an A-list actor or actress pushing the envelope with some type of new, cutting edge chapeau, but the Derby is where this tradition all started. Chances are the Derby might have been the originator of that stylish topper.

Paris Hilton tries on the perfect Kentucky Derby hat

If you don’t think that the derby events have as much to do about celebrity, fashion, and emerging trends, don’t take my word for it. Even the Kentucky Derby’s own official website shows as many hats on its home page as they do horses. There is no doubt that the stars seated on Millionaire’s Row wearing their lavish hats and posing for the camera help to sell the event as much as the actual race does.

2008 Kentucky Derby

So while we gear up for another grand Derby season, we insiders are as much a spectator as anyone outside of the headwear industry. We can only guess as to which styles, colors, and brands will adorn the stars heads. We will gaze at the beautiful large brims, and sinamay cloches, and revere in the waves of classic panama stingy brims and fedoras. When it is all over, we’ll go back to the drawing board and try to figure out what trends we predicted we would see, and where we missed the boat. We may even be inspired to go out and create a new masterpiece that will become next year’s millinery sensation. Either way, it all starts at the Derby.

Dwayne Wade


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The Jewel Of The Triple Crown Is Among Us!

Derby Season is just around the corner, bringing with it the most prestigious horse race in the world, The Kentucky Derby. Ladies and Gentleman, you know what this means. It’s time to find that perfect Derby hat for this exciting tradition, held annually in Louisville, Kentucky. Held on the first Saturday in May, the first race of the Triple Crown is by far the most fashionable of the three.

It is truly an honor to go to the Kentucky Derby. From celebrities to the Royal Family, even your next door neighbor, the Derby welcomes everyone for a once in a life time experience. There are traditional Kentucky Derby fashion rules that one should follow if you’re planning on fitting in and making the most of the experience. Whether you’re planning on sitting in the clubhouse, paddock or infield, a hat is in order. Along with that great looking hat, the men should be dressed in suits and tuxedos with a splash of bright color on the tie. Women should be dressed in spring dresses or skirts that are bright in nature, and a fabulous hat that brings the look together.

From top milliners such as Christine A. Moore and Marsha Makins, as well as our Belfry Brand Purple Label, you’re sure to find a hat to fit the Derby’s grandeur. While the Kentucky Derby is in fact a horse race, it is also an iconic event in the fashion world. The fashions you will see are timeless, chic and breathtaking. It’s a time for milliners and hat makers to shine. So much hard work goes into creating such gorgeous unique hats just for this one event. The Preakness and Belmont stakes are also big events for the milliners of the world. However, none of them seem to touch the status of the Run for the Rose! As for the lucky ones wearing the beautifully designed hats, they get to shine as well.

150,000 enthusiastic people, well dressed from HAT to toe, gather for this annual event. Whether you’re a seasoned attendee or this is your first time, be sure to make the most of it, because the Kentucky Derby is a tradition that will continue on and will always be history in the making for horse racing and FASHION!

- Ashley

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When The Sum Is Equal To Its Parts

One of the best parts about the fashion industry is the ability to turn your ideas into a finished product, and being involved every step of the way. We worked very closely with esteemed designer Marsha Makins to put together a line of hats that not only look good and feel great, but tell a story of a long history in headwear. Each piece in the collection was carefully designed to embody style and fashion that perfectly blends tradition with contemporary attitude. Each part of the hat was well-thought out, and had to fit the mold of the collection we were trying to create.

We knew only the finest bodies would do, so we decided that we had to be working with only the highest quality straw that didn’t require you (or us for that matter) to take out a 2nd mortgage on our homes to pay for it. Any good straw hat collection needs at least one or two Panamas in them. This hand woven straw is not only high quality, but has a smoother look and feel than most other straws. For the rest, we used some extremely light weight sisal, an agave grown in the Caribbean that yields naturally sturdy fibers. Sisal hats are so light and comfortable that you may forget you have a hat on your head (until someone compliments you on it, of course).

Makins has some of the most beautiful antique hat blocks around, able to create some true masterpieces in headwear. Using these blocks that were decades old, we were able to create some classic fedora shapes that you won’t see in most neighborhood hat shops. Some you may not see ANYWHERE else, because we made the crowns and brims separately, then combined for truly one of a kind looks. These fedoras had us waxing nostalgic about a world none of us have scene in our life-time, but hope to one day get back to. A time when a man never left the house without a fedora!

We asked for vintage suiting material to make bands that reflected the style of the times. Through thousands of yards of different silks, German grosgrains, and satins (some from old suit linings), we picked out some beautifully dyed bands that were over 50 years old. The more vintage appeal we could give each fedora, the better!

The result? A grouping of fedoras that can be best described as a throwback to the classics, while at the same time, blending modern thought. Truly our most imaginative branded collection to date, our Makins Vintage Derby Collection is a prime example of our commitment to delivering radically unique fashion.

- James

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