Justin Timberlake does it. Don Draper is known for how he does it on “Mad Men.” And Indiana Jones would be nothing if he didn’t do it.
These men are the good-looking, hat-wearing icons of modern culture. It’s their influence that leads more young men than ever to consider completing their ensemble with a classy topper.
Think fedoras, bowlers and porkpie hats with wide brims and modern details.
Think men in their mid-20s selecting a fine felt hat with the same care they use to pick out dress shoes and a tie.
Think of a hat as an accessory like a great watch: you only need one to set off your style year-round.
The basic shapes are straightforward, but the details take each hat to a new level.
There’s the safari hat: something lightweight with a wide brim and a mesh crown for a fisherman or hiker to keep his face out of the sun.
The gambler style, or porkpie, has a flat brim and low crown, made famous by Brian Cranston in “Breaking Bad.”
The fedora might be the most recognizable style with its tall crown, curved brim and traditional indents. It’s what you’re seeing on the old-time gangsters in black and white movies, as well as the modern version favored by flashy 20-somethings.
Ivy hats, also known as flatcaps or pocket caps, are rounded wool caps with a small stiff brim in front.
There is a hat to every purpose. Growing in popularity are crushable hats, because they can be packed for traveling without any damage to the brim or band. Large straw sunhats are lightweight and keep the sunshine off a wearer’s face and necks.
For the most part, there’s not much color going on. Men’s fashion hats are normally grey, black, blue or brown. The style comes in the details, like a leather printed sweatband, small feathers or a hatband printed with an EKG reading.
Choosing the right hat
Need some help navigating? The experts at Dorfman Pacific Hats are happy to guide you.
In south Stockton off Arch Road, there’s a warehouse of cardboard boxes with enough hats to outfit a million trendy dudes and still have stock left over. It’s the epicenter of hat distribution around the United States.
Dorfman-Pacific owns the licenses to many iconic hats, including the Indiana Jones, a line of hats by musician Carlos Santana, and the Blue Chair Bay line of straw cowboy hats inspired by country singer Kenny Chesney.
It started in Oakland in 1921, and has sold everything from raincoats to asparagus pickers over the years. Recently the focus has been all hats, all the time, and Todd Gardner, company president, says they are better off for it.
“You won’t find more hats under one roof anywhere in the world,” he said.
Gardner prefers the outdoorsy style of a safari hat when he’s fishing. But the real trend is in younger men taking up a more classic style.
The fedora has become very mainstream in the last five years, thanks to shows like “Mad Men,” and the fashion of singers like Justin Timberlake. Guys who were happy wearing a baseball cap a few seasons ago are now reaching for something with a little more structure and quality.
“It’s now a staple,” said Gardner. “It’s nice to see men in their twenties feeling comfortable wearing a brimmed hat.”
Something with a Western feel
The agricultural roots of San Joaquin County lead many men to reach for a durable cowboy hat, not something with ribbon and feather accents.
At Joe Hassan’s, the racks are focused on Western style. The Sacramento Street shop caters to men (and women) who work outside in San Joaquin county, whether it’s in construction, agriculture or warehouses. It’s been around since 1947 and brought hats into the inventory in the early ‘80s.
They stock felt and straw fedoras, safety hats, ski masks, beanies and fashion hats, but their true specialty is the cowboy hat.
The hats range from a $500 creation for a wealthy rancher to about $100 for something more simple, said Kamal Hassan, store manager.
More and more, customers are in need of straightforward cowboy hats to wear to a western style wedding.
“A guy’s going to a wedding, and he needs a hat, but he’s not going to drop $250 on one of these,” he said, gesturing to the wall display of fine leather Stetsons. “He’s not a cowboy. So we sell him a black Justin brand hat, and he’s set.”
Sometimes its the bride who comes in to order half a dozen for the wedding party.
But if it’s one guy looking for one hat, the right hat, there are a few decisions to make. The cowboy hats along the north wall of the store range from simple hats with plain bands to intricately braided leather with beads, metal star and oval details. Some you wouldn’t feel out of place wearing to church. Others would definitely be a work-only hat, but still get the job done.
A $1,000 hat sits under glass among rows of shirts. It’s called the Presidente, because it’s the same style Ronald Reagan wore in the ‘80s. Despite the price tag, a few have sold over the years.
It seems its the age of men in hats. But don’t take this as an invitation to buy a new hat for your husband or son. A hat is very personal. If one is bought as a gift, it’s more than likely going to come back into the store for an exchange.
A customer has to try on three or four, at least, to get the shape he wants.
“Here we’re selling hats to the big ranchers on down to the actual workers,” said Hassan. “They all want something a little different.”
First-time hat buyers often experience sticker shock when they take a look at the price tag. What they don’t realize is the hats are all crafted by hand. A Western style hat made of straw was woven by hand. The crown and brim of a fedora was shaped over a hat block by hand.
“There’s no machine that does this,” said Gardner. “It’s not like shirts or pants.”
If you’re new to wearing hats, don’t be overwhelmed by the options. Find one shape that fits your style and your physique, and buy a high quality version in a neutral gray or black. You’ll find more places to wear it than you thought.
Contact Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.