How much are you willing to pay for a hat? Well, as we all know, there are people for everything in this world. Even, for instance, people who bash about an expensive hat just because it’s expensive, which is the case of thelifefiles.com, a fashion blog that published today a derogatory post about a one-hundred-thousand-dollar, hand-woven straw Panama hat that was commissioned by Brent Black to Simón Espinal, an Ecuadorian waiver who has been labeled as the best weaver in the world.


The post presents the Montecristi Panama as ‘The Hat’ and under the picture writes, “We’re sure it’s weaved in some heavenly straw…BUT C’MON”.

One of the problems with hats in recent years is that they haven’t been taken seriously. Or, even more likely, that they’ve been taken as an accessory that doesn’t deserve more than a few bucks, one that is both casual and informal. We aren’t here to predict neither of both perspectives; you buy and wear what you want. Rather, we are here to ask for some sort of respect to a millennial tradition that, by the way, provides a life to people in foreign countries, which is actually the case of Mr. Espinal in Ecuador. The mistake of thelifefiles.com is not to let us know their opinion about the price of a hat, but to misestimate the work of an artist, a hardworking, talented artist. 

You, Resident of The World of Free Will, can choose a 12-dollar straw hat at St Marks Place in New York City or a 100 thousand-dollar one like this one. Whatever you do, however, just take into account that you get what you pay, and that the Hat thelifefiles.com is bashing of is part of a folkloric institution.

A hat is not just a hat, it’s a cultural symbol.


(Pictures taken from brentblack.com)




Who in the world wants a hat that makes one look like Foghorn Leghorn? It’s a fact that videogames freaks are authentic geeks, but that doesn’t mean that they are stupid. It’s also a fact that one should take even a fist for free, but, again, that doesn’t mean that one would take it voluntarily.

Let me explain. WBIE, the publisher of “Scribblenauts,” the upcoming Nintendo DS game from 5th Cell already recognized for its innovative gameplay, is encouraging people to pre-order the game by offering up a free rooster hat if they buy the game before the launch. Which is a good marketing idea. It’s quite normal to provide kind, altruistic presents to loyal clients, and even more when they buy a product in advance. But that doesn’t imply that they’ll receive any single piece of whatever product. Maxwell Scribblenauts seems to be a breezy character and the game is damn well designed. Even the hat, in the game’s context, is rather nice. But in real life is just one single piece of ridiculous, childish taste.


JJ Hat Center

July 6, 2009


It is the 1920s. Your name is Harold Rubenstein. You are an executive at Ford Corporation. You are economically stable. You wear a sacque suit, a silk tie with small geometric patterns or diagonal stripes, and a colored shirt of putty, peach, blue-gray or cedar. You wear religiously a black bowler hat.

Wake up. This is 2009. You are not in the 1920s. If you want to, though, go to JJ Hat Center on Fifth Avenue near 32nd Street, the store that calls itself the oldest and largest hat store in Manhattan. Manufacturers owned hat stores in the early 1900s. They were like sponsors. JJs was actually Adams hats, Stetson hats and now Borselino.



Established in 1911 during the zenith if the hat industry in the country, this store seems to have gotten obsolete. However, it has managed to be the only hat store that survived the radical fashion transformations of the 60s, when hats became an unpractical, outmoded accessory to wear. They say that it was because President Kennedy did not wear a hat in his inauguration. They also say that it was because cars were now small, aerodynamic and sometimes convertible. Whatever the reason is, hats passed from being a necessity to an accessory that only queens and baseball players wore. JJ Hat Center survived this and every other financial, economic, military crisis throughout 98 years. JJ Hat Center is the same store it was in the 1920s.


Aida O’toole, the current owner, is a fine lady. She welcomes you with a long Marlboro Light on her hand and an old, crippled cat called JJ is running around. She was born in Portugal but got to New York at 2. After becoming a mother, she started working at JJs one day a week 17 years ago, since her husband worked there too. “The day became two days, three, and in the twinkle of an eye I was running the place”, she says. The store has been in four families. Jack Lamberd, the man who sold it to Aida, bought it from his father, John. They were located on Broadway and 33rd since the ‘20s, but they relocated 17 years ago because a Korean firm bought the previous place.



Of the 10,000 hats they have in stock all the time, most of them are Borsalino fedoras, especially the Como, The Film, The Verdi, The Antonio, The Marco and the Nobel. The prices start in 35 dollars and end around 1000. The costumers start in a funky African-American fellow with a Gay Talese-like suit looking for this summer’s fedora and end with Nicholas Cage and Sara Jessica Parker taking their hat to be reshaped.

It is Monday July 6th 2009, and, if you need a serious hat, go to JJs. If not, says O’toole, “you can always go to St Marks street and buy a 10-dollar straw fedora made in China. Either way, you’re going to end up in JJs one day”.