How to Design Your Custom Bespoke Handcrafted Hat

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Herbert Johnson Hatters are delighted to offer our customers a fully bespoke design service. Our Hatters will work with you to create something unique and special. Please read our guide below explaining the various elements and decisions involved in creating a bespoke design. Let's explore the range of options together to create your very own custom design hat.  
For all enquiries, please contact the Herbert Johnson Hatters Workshop team via enquiries-hj@herbert-johnson.co.uk

 

STEP 1 : HAT SIZE

Probably the most important part of ordering any hat is to first establish your correct head size.  There can be many possible pitfalls to avoid in this regard so please never assume that the size of a particular hat you already own will come up the same.  All brands craft their hats differently and therefore sizes are not as universal as you might think.  Working from a current and accurate head measurement is the best option for bespoke headwear. Head measurements of an individual can also change over time so it's always best to check your current size.  We therefore ask all our customers to measure their head size directly prior to making each new order.  Please measure directly in centimetres to avoid mistakes with conversions. We have put together a guide to assist you in taking your measurement correctly and please do not hesitate to contact us should you require any further assistance or advice.  Our London shop team are also available in store to measure you for one of our hats and assist you with creating your order should you be able to stop by and visit.  

Are you a Long Oval?

Head shape can have a great effect on the fit and appearance of a hat. Most hats will be formed on a standard oval shape for each size increment. Some folks may discover that this standard oval just doesn't match their needs for a great fit. You might measure your head with a soft tape measure and see that you want a size 59cm for example but then when you put a standard hat on your head it feels tight at the front and back and strangely you can see a gap above each ear. This would indicate you are a long oval shape even though you have chosen the correct circumference of hat. 

Most of the time this can be an easy fix with an existing hat and just by wearing it often the hat will gradually season to your head shape. You could even buy a hat-jack to help push the front and back of the sweatband gently whilst the hat was stored to mimic the shape of your head inside it. It is useful to know especially when ordering from a bespoke hatters as they can put this stretch into your hat either as it is made or before they send it to you.

Another tell tale sign you might be a long oval is if you have ever tried on a wide flat brim style and discover the brim just won't behave and stay flat. The brim will swoop and warp. You may like the effect but if you don't and you wish the brim to remain flat, then the best thing to do is put the hat-jack into the hat to mimic your head and gently steam the brim back into flat allowing it to rest and dry on a flat surface. Again this can be done by your hatter.

Remember, every hat we make is handcrafted bespoke to order for every client so if you have any particular preferences, any special fit requirements outside our standard ranges or have any questions at all about the process or our products, our team are here to help!  

 

STEP 2 : CROWN SHAPE

Once we have established what size you require then we can move on to what shape you wish your hat to be. All our handcrafted hats start off with an open crown shape.  You can wear the hat like this or request it to be bashed (shaped) to a style of your choice.  There are a wide selection of choices in this regard from a Fedora, Trilby, Pork Pie, Tres-deux, … there are many types of each plus we also offer hybrids and new unique styles so if you have a fantasy shape in mind, our hatters will work with you to design something amazing.  Scroll through these crown shape examples for inspiration.

The chosen shape or bash of a hat can play perhaps the most major role in the final look and how the proportions of the hat balance with the features of the wearer, so it's important to choose what is ideal for you and your style. You may have a favourite bash style but for those who may be new to hat wearing or would like to try something different, we suggest familiarizing yourself with the wide array of choices on offer.  Try our ranges in store including the classic bash of centre crease, front pinch and side dents or maybe something in a hand-shaped or telescopic pork-pie, a diamond crease, teardrop crease or perhaps a tres-deux.  There are a wide range of choices and options within each so you may wish to discuss your preferences with our hatter or shop team.

Remember, there are No hard & fast rules on this, just what you feel suits your style and what you feel comfortable wearing.  

 

STEP 3 : THE STARTING BLOCK

All our fur felt hats are blocked by hand in the traditional way using wooden hat blocks.  We primarily use our sets of 'poet' or 'casual' open crown blocks to produce the majority of our styles which are then shaped by hand after blocking.  We offer a wide range of block shapes but our poet or casual are our most versatile and popular. Your hatter will decide which is best to use based off the final shape you choose your hat to be.

Our Poets are a set of straight sided graduated blocks scaled up and down proportionally from an average open crown height of 5 ½ inches at a size 59cm.  These blocks are sometimes referred to as a stove-pipe shape and have very little taper with an almost flat top to them. They can be worn in open crown state or can make a whole variety of hand shaped styles.

Our Casuals are also a set of graduated blocks scaled up and down proportionally from an average open crown height of 5 ½ inches at a size 59cm.  These blocks however have a gradual taper and more rounded top shape and therefore slightly less volume to the crown compared with our Poets.

Using graduated blocks ensures that no matter what size you order, the proportions of the hat remain in balance.

 

STEP 4 : BRIM OPTIONS

Once you know what shape crown you would like for your hat, the next step is to pair it with a suitable brim shape.  Most hats come with an even-rim where the width from the base of the crown (brim break) is equal on all sides, but you could opt for a dimensional brim where the brim sides are made slightly narrower than the width at the front and back, as in our Raiders models.  Once this is established you can decide whether you are happy with the classic flanged snap-brim style or whether you would prefer a flat-ironed brim or perhaps an upturned brim.  The width of the brim is also a factor whether you prefer our classic-brim (2.5-2.75"), Stingy-brim (2-2.5") or wide brim (3"+), and whether you would like your hats brim to be raw-edge or bound-edge.  If you desire a wider brim perhaps more than 3 inch wide then please check with us as only certain felt stock will allow for wider brims.

 

STEP 5 : FELT TYPE

What is ‘FELT’?

Felt is the term given to the method of entangling fibres together to form a matted shape. What affects how any given felt will perform is down to several things: the fibre which makes up the felt, the density and quality of the manufacture of this felted raw body, the processes used to make the raw body into a finished hat. We prefer to source the highest quality fur felt raw blanks which are pre shrunk, dense dress weight with pre-pounced finish and impregnated stiffener in both 100% beaver fibre and 100% rabbit fibre. The reasons we source such high quality fur felts is that we aim for our hats to have longevity and to age exceptionally well. Hand blocked and sewn hats are superior to machine blocked and sewn hats and therefore last much longer and generally hold their shape much better over time. A machine can cut down on waste by stretching a felt far and save cost by getting more out of a weight of felt but it comes at the cost of quality and longevity. Of course there is a place for factory made hats in the market if you understand the pay off between a hat which you hope to pass onto the next generation or one you will simply dispose of. With proper care a hand made hat of high quality will last. Great sustainable products are made from quality supplies and carefully considered craftsmanship. Corner cutting such as using glue to secure liners is not an option for us and we would recommend you avoid both hand made and mass manufactured items using glue as it both looks messy and when it comes to caring for your hat down the line with a reblock or any such TLC, the removal of a glued liner rips fibres from the felt and weakens it. 

Knowing which felt option is right for you will depend on many factors and will really depend on what factors you prioritise, what you want your hat to achieve and what conditions and circumstances of wear you want to put the hat through.  Clients may opt for rabbit or for beaver in preference for many reasons.  Budget may be one concern as rabbit felt hoods are less expensive to produce than their beaver fur felt counterparts, thus reflected in the price differences between the finished hats.  If it is the longevity that is your main concern, both our rabbit and beaver felts are of the highest quality and our Hatters skilled craftsmanship and build quality combined with the proper after-care/handling by the wearer ensures that whichever you choose, they will last you well.  Both our rabbit and beaver felts have been pre-shrunk as part of the hat-making process and are all treated with a coat of protector spray before shipping which helps with water repellency, helps maintain the shaping and resists surface staining. This protection treatment may need to be maintained throughout the life of the hat.  We recommend that all clients but particularly those subjecting their hats to challenging conditions observe our after-care and handling guidelines to ensure the maximum longevity from their hats.

Both our Beaver and Rabbit felt options will be beautiful but make no mistake at a molecular level each have their own properties which make them desirable and beautiful for their own reasons.

Beaver fur felt

 

Our luxury beaver felts are 100% beaver fur felt.  None of this fur is farmed and is a byproduct from pest control populations from Canada. Currently we have beaver felt in 4 colours, Deep Sable, Sable, Black and Seaplane Grey.  As beaver fur felt is generally a far denser material (ie. more hairs/fibres per square cm) as compared to rabbit fur, it is thinner and lightweight and we can achieve a denser, smoother and more luxury finish to the material on completion of the pouncing process.

Due to the additional density & water repellent nature of the beaver fibres, quality hats made from beaver felt tend to have increased tolerance to wear, age & weather giving them perhaps greater longevity and quality as compared to their rabbit fur & wool felt counterparts.

Beaver felt hats are generally more expensive because beaver is less plentiful as a fur source, it is harder to work with, gives a more luxurious finish and has increased weather tolerance & longevity.

Due to rabbit fur being less dense, it is argued that the finished rabbit fur fedoras have more movement to them compared to the slightly stiffer movement of the beaver fur fedoras. 

Beaver fibres have a more silky finish however that refracts the light in interesting ways giving the felt colour a chameleon-like quality, looking quite different in colour depending on the lighting situation and can appear complex and rich in tonality.

Rabbit Fur Felt

 

Our fine rabbit felts are 100% rabbit fur felt.  Our rabbit fur hood are supplied to us as a byproduct from the European food industry. We currently stock rabbit fur felts in a wide range of colours.

Our Rabbit felts are less dense when compared to our beaver felts and not as well adapted to very wet weather conditions. Our rabbit fur felt hats will wear very well for many years especially when given good care and proper storage.

Due to rabbit fur being less dense, it is argued that the finished rabbit fur fedoras have more movement to them compared to the slightly less pliable beaver felt. 

In regards to the waterproofing of hats.  Every hat receives a coating of water repellent protector spray once they have been completed and are ready to ship.  Of course this is a treatment that will require further applications throughout the life of the hat to maintain it. We recommend having a can of protector water repellency spray handy. The type of spray which you can also use on suede and nubuck footwear is most suitable. Please always follow the instructions on your spray can.

We carry a large variety of stock felts in many colours. Please check with us for our current options. Should you desire another colour not held in our stock we can look to source such a felt from our suppliers. Please do contact us should you have a specific colour in mind. Our special order suppliers can offer a wider range of colours, felt-textures, weights and fur-blends but as these are ordered in on a single-hood basis, please be aware that these choices will affect your final quotation for the cost of the hat build.

 

STEP 6 : COLOURS

Style is a very individual thing as it should be, we are very happy to work with you through your ideas or put forward suggestions for colour combinations for your hat.  You may have an outfit in mind and our hatter would be happy to design something for you to coordinate perfectly.

You can choose to have the trimmings and exterior decorations on your hat to blend in or contrast with your chosen felt colour. The style of decoration can be understated or eye-catching and a fun feature.

Please tell us what ideas you have. We have a wide range of ribbons in stock and can always source elements such as feathers and embellishments from our suppliers to suit your needs.

 

STEP 7 : RIBBONWORK

Choose your trimmings - we have a wide range of ribbons, trimmings, embellishments and hat-band options available.  We can also source and special order some items which we may not ordinarily hold in stock.  We can produce everything from a simple plain ribbon band to folded and tied complex ribbon work. Check out our online styles to see what inspires you.

A band and bow can be simple with all the same colour or the bow knot can be folded or have an accent flash of colour through it. Ribbons can be folded like our signature Origami Poet styles or complex hand sewn embellishments as in our Coral Fan. Ribbons can be layered to bring two colours or more to a band. The knot on the bow can be folded, twisted, different shapes or a completely different colour to the rest of the band or bow. The tails on a bow can be sewn in line or kick out a little or dramatically. The stitches holding the bow can be made discrete or into a feature in their own right with the use of bold contrast thread colours. The bow can be discarded entirely and just a knot feature at the band or the bow can be exaggerated and even have three bow ends. The bow tails can be sewn with a neat folded under edge or the edges can be frayed and loose or taper to a point. You could choose a leather option instead of a ribbon, put feathers into the band or add embroidery or beads. You could add thonging or fabric or lace. There are countless ways to give your hat design the personality you desire to see.

 

STEP 8 : BRIM TREATMENTS

Please consider if you wish the brim edge to remain simple and raw or if you wish to have a ribbon bound edge. Or perhaps a pencil curl to the edge is more your style. You can choose to have an even width brim or something dimensional or even completely asymmetric. 

 

STEP 9 : INTERIOR OPTIONS

The vast majority of our hat styles will come with a handsewn branded fine leather sweatband, sweatband bow and high quality handmade branded liner inside.  However, we do offer other options on some styles which may benefit from a more flexible head-fitting or omitting a liner such as a panama style.  We also offer a growing range of branded liner options in addition to our classic white, we now also offer 'Regal', Olive and Champagne options.  Each hat style on our website will specify which liner option comes as standard with that style, however we can offer your preferred colour option to be included by request for most hats.  

We also have a variety of leather colours to choose from and also gold and silver foil options as well as embossing for initials for that personal touch.  Custom choices of sweatband bow and stitching colour are also available.

 

STEP 10 : PERSONALISATION

We offer a custom embossing service on most of our hat styles that include a leather sweatband.  We use the debossing method whereby the letters are recessed into the material using the application of heat.  Embossing is currently offered in upper case letters only in a single font.  Please choose a maximum of 4 letters with additionally up to 3 dots.  We offer silver embossing as standard. We can also offer ‘blind’ embossing (where no foil is used and letters are simply debossed into the leather) or gold foil embossing by special request. Please contact us with your preference.

 

STEP 11 : GET A QUOTE

Once all the style choices for your hat have been agreed, we will put together a quotation for the final hat cost based on all the components and work involved to create your bespoke hat design.

Please also decide whether you would like to collect your hat from our London shop or get it shipped directly to you.  Prices are quoted excluding delivery.  When placing your order online the shipping cost will be calculated at checkout based on your delivery address.  If placing your order via our London shop or directly with our customer service teams, you will be given a choice between collection in store or to have your hat shipped to you directly.  All required shipping costs will be charged when you place your order.

For all enquiries, to organise a quote or to place a bespoke order with us, please contact us directly at enquiries-hj@herbert-johnson.co.uk.

 

 STEP 12 : MAKE YOUR ORDER

Once your preferences and quote have all been finalised and agreed, you can place your order.  Bespoke custom orders can be placed via our London shop or by emailing our hatting workshop directly via enquiries-hj@herbert-johnson.co.uk.  Please check with us for information regarding current lead times as these can vary.

 

STEP 13 : HAT CARE

Store your hat somewhere dry, out of direct sunlight and placed brim down, preferably in a hat box.  We recommend using a soft bristled hat or clothes brush to care for your hat.  Brush your hat counter clockwise to free any particles from the felt.  Whilst we preshrunk all our hats, under extreme moisture conditions the felt may still be vulnerable to shrinkage or losing its shape when not properly cared for or if has been worn during extreme weather conditions.  We advise against force drying your hat and it's best to allow it to dry naturally brim side down.  For more advice on hat care or to enquire about our wide range of hat refurbishment and repair services, please contact the hatting team via enquiries-hj@herbert-johnson.co.uk 

 

STEP 14 : REPAIRS & REFURBISHMENTS

The longevity of any hat and how it will respond to weather conditions, wear and being refurbished with steam will largely depend on several factors including - the quality of the felt the hat is made from, the method of production and the quality of the craftsmanship constructing the finished hat originally.  It's longevity will also depend a lot on the care it has received in its life including proper storage and care after exposure to inclement weather.

It is important to realise that not all felts are the same nor can they all offer the same robustness or longevity.  In general, fur felts are superior to wool, and beaver felts may offer the edge over their counterparts in rabbit, but there exists a huge range of quality between different rabbit felts and also with beaver felts, so it's more important that we talk about the quality of a felt above just rabbit vs beaver in general.

It is fair to say a well made hand stitched and handcrafted fur felt hat will far outlast a factory made machine stitched hat.  This is why it may be more cost effective to pay more for a quality hat to last you decades or even generations that with proper care will stand up favourably to refurbishment treatments and reblocking to rejuvenate it for continued years of enjoyment versus repeatedly needing to replace worn out lower cost items.

So in essence, it is always best to get advice from a reputable hatter directly when considering refurbing, reshaping or reblocking a vintage hat.  The quality of the original felt, the amount of wear and so on, will play a part in how well the hat will respond to a refurbishment service.  If you would like more advice about your hat and how it may be possible to achieve the look you desire for it, please email us and our hatter can offer more advice.  We also recommend watching our videos on our YouTube channel which offer lots of help and advice including how to reshape and care for your hat.