Although it can be reasonably said that people have been making hats just about as long as we have noticed the need to cover our heads (the first known hat has been dated back to 3250 BC, although there is evidence going back even further), it can also be said that Italy has one of the longest traditions of hat making available. It was only natural that when we began our overseas collaborations we did it with Italian milliners.
It should come as no surprise that Italian excellence in hats began, like so many other good things, during the Italian Renaissance. Some of our most popular men's styles were also invented in eighteenth century Millan, which gave birth to the name for a hatmaker, a milliner, and no style was best popularized by the Italians like the men’s fur felt fedora and men’s cap. Although they did not invent the men’s fedora, the Italians embraced it’s wear almost instantly, and the question “Is that a Borsalino fur felt fedora?” is still whispered in the hat world with the respect and awe that it deserves. It is in part thanks to Borsalino’s early men’s fedora hats and caps imports to the United States that the men’s fedora and caps became so popular in the U.S.
It was with this understanding of fine Italian millinery that we decided that we needed to travel to Europe to meet with some of the greatest hatmakers on the continent. However, when we arrived in Italy, we found that our hosts spoke very little English, and we spoke almost no Italian. Luckily, it turned out that we both spoke spoke the language: Hats! Both our partners and we understood the need for a quality hat, made from the finest materials, that was not only a trendy and fashionable piece of headwear, but also respected the long and storied tradition of hats.
In the small Italian textile shops and factories we found the perfect mix of exclusivity and quality that we strive to give to our customers. Italian fabrics provide a softness and richness that is incomparable the world over, and are crafted to such high standards that their exclusivity is practically guaranteed to our customers. It is not just the textiles and the techniques that are exclusive to us, though. We work directly with our partner’s factories, something that, to the best of our knowledge, no other hat company does. We track down some of the smallest, most talented, hat makers in the business to do our design work directly alongside them. Like our Italian partners, we take the utmost care to bring a superb and exclusive product to our customers.
The Italian spirit can be seen in their love of good things, like fine textiles, and in their care and and attention to detail, like in the attention that they pay to their lovingly crafted hats, but the Italian spirit can best be seen perhaps in their hospitality. After one long meeting and planning session, one of our partners in millinery took us out to eat. They ordered for us, in Italian, and so you can imagine our surprise when a massive pizza arrived for each of us. I guess they were concerned about making sure we had enough to eat! We are not ashamed to admit we ate every bite.
This is a spirit we share. We at Hats in the Belfry love Italy, and we love that the understand the need for great relationships, and great storytelling, not just with their customers, but also with their partners. We love the history of Italy and it’s millenary tradition, and how it merges with and improves our own. That tradition enriches us, and enriches our customers.