Stephen Temkin’s
Hat Primer

© Stephen Temkin 2018

 

What is Felt?


Felt, as it applies to hat making, is essentially a textile composed of the matted fur or hair of an animal. The degree to which fibres will effectively mat, and the character and quality of the felt, depend upon the type of hair used.

4

SALZBURG

GENEVA

WESTMINSTER

HUDSON

Dusseldorfer
Handicapper

Gaffer

Autobahner
Budapester

Hogtowner
Rambler

Vacationer

Burgunder
Cotswolder
Cruiser

Forager
Keeper
Londoner
Stroller

Luxemburger

Milaner
Scribbler

St Urbainer
Skyliner

Tourtière

47/8

51/8

51/2

53/4

The Starting Block


The following elements combine in myriad ways to produce the look of every hat.


  1. 1.The silhouette of the un-bashed crown.

  2. 2.The way the crown is creased and dented.

  3. 3.The width and configuration of the brim.

  4. 4.The colour of the felt.

  5. 5.The finish of the felt.

  6. 6.The type, colour and width of the ribbon.

  7. 7.The bow treatment or other adornments.


An industrial hat is pressed into shape over a pre-styled mold, meaning all of the various dents and creases are sculpted into the mold and transferred to the felt when initially blocked. In other words, numbers one and two above are stamped out in one fell swoop. You can usually tell when a hat has been made this way because the impressions it leaves in the crown often have sharply defined edges and every hat produced is identical.


Classic men’s hats (I will call them “classic” for lack of a better term) are initially formed over simple oval blocks to create what is called an “open” crown. They are then styled or “bashed” by hand after the felt has been removed from the block. They have a softer, more organic shape, display more irregularity, and are more receptive to further manipulations by the customer.


Oval blocks are made to various, differing specifications in order to achieve different results. Some are taller or shorter, more or less tapered, rounder or flatter on top, and various other nuances of shape. So, hats that are styled or “bashed” in the exact same way will still exhibit differences of character based on the oval block that was initially used.


Leon Drexler uses four different sets of oval crown blocks. While hat blocks traditionally only had manufacturer-designated style numbers, I have given each of my block styles a name as a point of reference, much like how shoemakers name their lasts. The four blocks are Salzburg, Geneva, Westminster and Hudson.


The type of block used for each hat in the Drexler portfolio is referenced at the bottom of the description on the hat’s detail page. Looking through these hats will give you a sense of how each block is used and how they may differ in their general effect. Below is a graphic overview. These silhouettes were photographically derived and show the actual relative shapes and sizes of the four blocks.

Face

Profile

The Salzburg, Geneva and Westminster blocks represent a progression from shallower and more tapered to taller and fuller. The Hudson block is the tallest but has more taper than the Westminster block, particularly towards the top and in profile, and is more squared off at the top. I frequently employ this block without using its full height—indeed, of the portfolio models listed below the Hudson block, only the Skyliner employs its full height.