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Top Off Your Look With A High-End, Handmade Hat

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March 11, 2016
High-end, handmade hats: the latest trend turning heads (and covering them) with luxury headgear

Hats for men and women are becoming more popular. Whether it’s because of retro fashion on TV shows like Mad Men and Downton Abbey, or because of style choices from celebrities like Bruno Mars and the Duchess of Cambridge, more people are donning high-end headwear.

You say you’re not a hat person? Nonsense. Just as a bespoke suit fits perfectly, a handmade hat is created to fit your face and your personality, too.

Finding Your Perfect Hat

To get the perfect chapeau, seek a professional hatmaker or milliner (for special-occasion hats) who will help you figure out what you want.

Graham Thompson, owner of Optimo in Chicago, makes classic handmade hats with a lineage dating back to the 1930s. He suggests that people relax and look around his shop to see what a fine, quality hat looks like versus a mass-produced hat.

“Our sales staff will get a feel for the person and what their personal style is and give them some time with different hats. I’m not going to say, ‘I have the hat for you.’ Sometimes we’ll grab a few [that] might look good on you. But it doesn’t matter how good it looks. It’s when it looks good and fits your personality,” he said.

Tonya Gross of Tonya Gross Millinery in Chicago, who worked at a hedge fund before opening her business 10 years ago, said she’ll analyze the client’s need in a first meeting, including asking if the person normally wears hats. She’ll then take measurements and choose materials.

Where to Wear

Many custom-made hats are still for special occasions such as weddings or for racing season, said Gross and Jill Courtemanche, owner of Jill Courtemanche Millinery in Solana Beach, California. Both women make hats for people attending the Kentucky Derby or Royal Ascot.

After spending 20 years in millinery, Courtemanche said she’s starting to see a greater demand for everyday hats because of concerns about skin cancer. These hats can include special linings to protect against the sun.

Our clientele “know they’re wearing a hat every day because they had sun spots removed and they want to feel good,” she said.

Whether it’s a one-of-a-kind, special-occasion hat or a classic, everyday style, a handmade hat takes from two to four weeks to make, including sourcing top-quality materials. Prices for hats vary depending on materials and time spent. Courtemanche says her hats start around $98, while Gross’s hats start around $150. Optimo’s hats start at $650.

The high-quality materials mean these hats endure for years. And working with a hatmaker means you’ve established a relationship, much like going to a bespoke tailor.

“We service these hats. If you’re going to wear it a lot, there’s nothing to talk about. Get one, get the right color to wear with lots of stuff, and it lasts forever,” Thompson said.

That’s even the case for special-occasion hats, Gross and Courtemanche said.

“We can transition hats into more than one occasion. I want people to come back,” Gross said.

Hands-On Retirement Planning

Retirement planning isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. Your plans take thoughtful care, and the help of professionals.

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