The Hat Man Cometh
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because there’s plenty of time left in life to be boring.
By Eugene S. Robinson
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
My wife and I live a pretty normal life. We’re usually up by 5:15 a.m. We went to a Tony Robbins event recently and since then we’ve been jumping on trampolines for five minutes every morning to get the blood flowing. Then five minutes of concentrated breathing. Then 15 minutes of guided meditation.
The meditation is to think about how we want our lives to look five years from now, 10 years from now and so on.
Then I box. Something about working hard to not get hit in face keeps you sharp.
If you had asked me a few years ago whether I’d be living the hat life, I’d have gone, “What?”
By the time I roll into the office at 9:15, I’m ready for business, and that business is hats. Period TV shows like Peaky Blinders and people like Bruno Mars, who wears a lot of our Biltmores, have really had an effect. That, and the fact that we’re the official licensor for the new Indiana Jones movie scheduled to hit theaters in 2021.
Despite the rough ride hats have had since JFK stopped wearing them, and I don’t think those pre-Kennedy days are coming back, my business, Tenth Street Hats, has products in thousands of retail operations. We’ve been around since 1921 (or the company that owns us has, at least).
My partner’s family owns the company. After college, my partner and I were selling solar backpacks, but you know, how often would you buy one of those? His family saw what we were doing with the backpacks and got the idea that maybe the world was ready for a hat jump-start.
If you had asked me a few years ago whether I’d be living the hat life, I’d have gone, “What?” But the world has changed, or how we understand it has changed, and when people started taking sun protection seriously, outdoors folks started taking hats seriously. Funny thing is, and most people who are not part of the hat world probably never think about this, the world is divided up between functional wearers and fashion wearers.
Bruno Mars wears the Biltmore, which is what I wear, not to keep the sun off his face but because it makes a statement. My statement? It doesn’t really have to be much more than “I look good in this.” Which my wife tells me I do.
So I spend my days doing the business of hat business. Hats have been with us a long time and how we make them hasn’t changed much. But how we sell them has. I still get a thrill when I walk into the main office and there are more hats there than you could ever imagine. More hats than you’ve probably ever seen before. Walls of hats that go on for what feels like miles.
Philosophically, once you start thinking about hats, it gets demographically interesting. Men who are going bald might start wearing them. Among the functional set, men and women who are spending more time outdoors and those with kids.
There’s a whole universe around hats and that’s where I spend my time, trying to help people figure out the statement they want to make with a hat. You see me in a Biltmore with gray tones? That’s when I’ve accepted the fact that you can’t be bold every day.
This is how I spend my days: hat whispering. What I’m going to do after I stop talking to you? Probably head home, cook dinner, relax, wind down, take my hat off. I think I do a good job of keeping work at work.