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.


Size, Proportion, Balance
and Style

When consulting with a client for a custom hat, the choice of block is usually the primary decision. That decision is based on their physical features, aesthetic preferences, how the hat will be styled, and the context in which hat will be worn.

The other elements tend to fall into place after that, the most important being the bash of the crown as well as the width and configuration of the brim. These, combined with the type of block, define the hat’s silhouette—its essential sense of size, shape and proportion—and form the hat’s fundamental style.

Making these choices is not an exact science—far from it. Prospective clients often ask, “What sort of hat would look good on me?” Any answer I can provide is a generality at best. I am always astonished by those customers who look great in just about any hat you throw at them. Others seem to require something much more specific. My approach is to first look for balance and proportionality, and then apply personal preferences after that. Of course, many customers are seasoned hat owners and know exactly what they want.

All of the other elements—items four to seven listed in the previous section—are more or less modifiers. As cited before, these include:

The colour of the felt

The finish of the felt

The type, width and colour of the ribbon

The bow or other adornments.

These can pull the character of the hat one way or another, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically so. The colour of the felt is usually the most influential of these features.

The width, colour and contrast of the crown ribbon can also push the hat in different directions. Of course, it can’t technically alter the shape of a hat, but it can skew the perception of its relative proportions. The overall dynamic of the ribbon on a hat could probably use a treatise all its own. It is enough to say here that it is notable. Fortunately, most people have a good intuitive sense of what works and what doesn’t.

Bow treatments and other adornments range from the discreet to the flamboyant. Needless to say to anyone who has perused this website, I tend to lean weightily toward the former. I have done fancy bow treatments and will continue to do so upon request (after all, it is your hat, not mine). However, as can be seen within the Drexler Portfolio, the house style supports the view that the bow should reflect or enhance the fundamental character of the hat, not define it. A classic hat is a style accessory, and I believe style is mostly about the cake, not the icing. Of course, from a traditional perspective, the same is not necessarily true for women’s hats.