There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Hats in the Belfry has long been tied to the names of the globe’s finest hatmakers. As an American company, we draw significant inspiration from the adventurous, fashion-forward viewpoint of Europe. Much like our cuisine, the marriage of European style and American sensibilities creates something that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
From the hardy wools and linens of Ireland and Scotland, to the fine millinery and forward thinking hatmakers of Italy, we scoured the continent to find the very best that Europe had to offer, and to bring it to you. We found inspiration, and our roots, within the hat making tradition of England, some of our longest and firmest partners in Sweden, and many new friends and fantastic milliners in Italy.
In some ways the soul of hat making, England has fundamentally inspired hat styles as we know them. This influence goes back as far as the eighteenth century, when the British Parliament passed legislature intended to keep wool sales in-country, and it mandated that every man over a certain age own a wool hat or cap to be worn on Sundays. The result was a stylistic switch to a soft wool cap pulled forward and sculpted to a soft peak by hand, not unlike a Basque Beret. Though the legislature was quickly repealed, the tradition held firm, and the proto-ivy cap was born.
The derby and bowler styles can also trace their roots in England. Initially made from wood to protect groundskeeper’s heads from low hanging branches, the distinctive round hat was made popular by an English nobleman when he had one made of felt, and wore it to a horse race.
Hardy, lush, and traditional, the Irish cap is extension of the Irish people. Made from thick Donegal tweeds and hardy Irish linens, the flat Irish Ivy cap is an expression of the needs of the people. Warm in the winter, practically invulnerable to the elements, and capable of enduring any hardship, an Irish cap will warm you and keep you company all year long.
If England is the soul of hat making, then Italy is the heart. While the Italians didn’t invent many of our modern styles, they certainly perfected and made popular many of them. Milan was such a prominent producer of hats at one point that we named the whole trade, millinery, after the city. From renowned big names like Borsalino, to enumerable excellent small milliners, Italy is filled with men and women striving to continue the hat tradition, but also to make the next great hat. This desire to respect tradition and to also drive the direction of fashion is part of what drew us to Italian milliners.
It is no wonder that we turned to three prominent Italian artisans to elevate our International Collection. The three brands, Super Duper, Tesi, and Albertus, were all sought out by us for their unique styles, their attention to detail, and their exclusivity. These brands are all difficult or impossible to find with other companies, so it is our pleasure to be able to supply these quality and exclusive hats.
Wigens Hats, an outstanding Swedish company, has been a longstanding partner with Hats in the Belfry. In fact, the author’s first sale as a clerk with Hats in the Belfry was several Wigens hats, the copy of which now sits on his shelf, a gift from the VP of Hats in the Belfry, then a lowly store manager.
Best known for their fashion forward take on the longshoreman style of cap, Wigens is also well known for their attention to detail and their selection of the fine textiles from which the hats are made. Anyone who walks into a Hats in the Belfry is instantly drawn to the shelves of Wigens hats, their rich colors and styles, and to the luxurious feel of their fabrics.
The Belfry International line is one of the most exciting collections we offer, epitomizing the hat making tradition the world over. Some of the greatest hat styles represent their companies in this collection, and each should be rightly proud of their heritage. From fine fur felt fedoras to humble tweed caps, from the most traditional to the exquisitely fashion forward, there is a taste of something for everyone.