Texas Hatters still uses the same basic methods of hat making that Marvin, Sr. learned as an apprentice hatter back in the 1920’s. Starting with unfinished bodies that we purchase from a felter, all the way through the finishing that is done by hand in our little shop in Lockhart. (These bodies, or blanks, look something like Jed Clampett’s hat, only without the holes.)
After we measure a customer’s head, we discuss their choice of color, style and trim. Based on these factors, we then select the appropriate body to begin a long, hands-on process. Although our family tradition of hat making goes back for three generations, most of the methods we apply are actually centuries old.
Each body is steamed until soft and hand-stretched over a wooden block appropriate for the customer's style and size. Once tied on, the body is then dampened and ironed for several minutes. (In the old days, hat makers would slick the fur down with mercury which poisoned them and made them insane, hence the saying, ‘mad as a hatter’). That method has since been outlawed. We then give the hat a hair cut by applying sand paper. This sanding and ragging give the body an almost polished look. This is especially so with the pure beaver. The same basic steps are then used for the brim on a wooden form called a flange.
After the blocking and flanging, we then cut the genuine leather sweatbands to size and sew them in by hand. Next, the satin lining and the ribbon trim is also sewn in by hand.
We also make several styles of custom hat bands including rattlesnake skin, leather and silver conchos, bone pipe beads, and Manny's own invention; the shotgun shell band. The shotgun shell hatband uses the end caps of 10 gauges, 12 gauges and various other shotgun shells as conchos. Manny was the first to use the actual end caps as conchos, and even created the tool we use to attach them.
After all the trim, fancy or plain, each hat is then hand creased to the customer’s specifications. Of course, mail orders and now, Internet ordering makes things a little more complicated, but our custom treatment still goes into each and every hat we make.
Like Manny said over thirty years ago, “As modern as yesterday, with tomorrow’s ideas.” We blend traditional hat making methods with a modern approach to selling them.