Going retro: the art of hatmaking
San Francisco may not be known for its fashion, but it’s certainly a fashionable city – the item of the day might be a bulky scarf or skinny jeans, but in the first half of the 20th century and earlier, San Franciscans were really into hats. Streets were often a sea of hats: rounded bowlers and their flatter cousins, the porkpies, creased fedoras, tall top hats, wide-brimmed ladies’ hats ornamented with flowers and birds. Today, though, the hat’s popularity is a shadow of what it once. And local hatters and milliners that once ran thriving businesses from their trade have all but disappeared. If you do see hats milling about town these days, most likely they’re mass-produced in factories overseas. But there’s at least one place where the local hat-making tradition goes on – behind a nearly 100-year-old storefront in the Richmond District. KALW’s Ali Budner visited Paul’s Hat Works, an old-fashioned men’s hat shop, to meet the four young women who have taken up this almost forgotten trade.
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April 25, 2011
ALI BUDNER: When you walk into Paul’s Hat Shop, it’s a bit like stepping back in time. The shop feels well-kept, warm, and decidedly old-fashioned with wood counters and glass cases. There’s an ornate yet functional metal cash register, an old record player, framed black and white pictures of people wearing hats, stacks of vintage hatboxes, and hats of every style hanging from brass hooks.
KIRSTEN HOVE: My name’s Kirsten Hove, and I’m wearing a black fedora with a short curled brim.
Kirsten is co-owner of Paul’s Hat Works, which dates back to 1918. All the previous owners have been men, none of them named Paul, but as of 2009, this San Francisco institution has been run collectively by four women in their 20s. The friends-turned-coworkers make a good team – they each fulfill their own niche in their quest to bring the hat back.
OLIVIA GRIFFIN: Why are we bringing the hat back? Well,...
Read the full transcript