Friday, 9 August 2013

Hats, a Commodity Vital to Texas

Because I'm planning to go out for a beer with my pal, Ken, I'm a bit stuck for time, I'm working on a few long posts, full of pictures, but I thought I'd hurl these pictures into the aether for you folks, I know you all think I'm not working hard enough at this blogging. Truth is, I was up til 3 a.m. this morning, reviewing dense reams of paperwork for the U.S. Embassy in London, and booking rail tickets and a hotel, for next thursday, when I'm away to the big city for my K1 Visa medical. If you've not been there, you can't imagine just how complex the process is, and the embassy warns you, in no uncertain terms, that if you're deficient in one piece of paperwork, then it's turn around and go home, and wait another month. They have a little youtube video showing the hapless applicant who has failed to properly check the list of vital documents. The barbarian is always turned around at the moat. If I had known it would be so difficult to get permission to enter the United States, in order to marry a U.S.citizen, I'd have arranged to be born there. I'd certainly have started keeping an accurate journal and huge scrapbook of significant events and dates when I was sixteen, which is so long ago that I can barely remember who I was back then, let alone every place I lived, for over six months, and the dates I arrived and left. I can't remember the name of the guy who was my immediate supervisor in the job I had in 2001. Well, I do know he was called Chris, and someone told me he died a couple of years after I left. So I don't suppose he'd give me a reference anyway. I lived quite a few places since I was sixteen. More than many, less than some. Study and then work. I digress as usual. As I have to go out for a beer, I'll have to vaguely promise more text later. 

Texas. Old hats. 

And new hats, at High-Brehm Hats, New Braunfels, near San Antonio, Texas.

Here, you can buy yourself a new hat, or take your grand-daddy's hat in, to be cleaned, repaired, re-blocked, and fitted to your head. 
The best known names in Western hats are probably Stetson, and Resistol, who are, these days, both made in Garland, Texas by the same company.  They're not the only hatters in Texas though. There are a very few individuals left who still make made to measure, bespoke hats. 
Here in New Braunfels, we met one. And it may be that one day, I get a new hat from him.
I do wear a hat, the top of my head has less thatching than it did when I was sixteen, and I find it appreciates a little shelter from both the noonday sun and the cold and wet of winter. Mostly, I wear an Australian Barmah hat, not too dissimilar to a western hat, a narrower brim though. When the weather is really nasty, I wear a Rogue leather hat, made in Mpumalanga, South Africa. I've had that hat for fifteen years now, it's been submerged in mud and in sea water, it's been used as a makeshift water bowl for my dog, it's been driven over, stomped on, and somehow it just gets better. 
But it might look a bit out of place in Texas.

Raw hat blanks, felt awaiting steaming and blocking to shape.

The workshop.

Still simple sewing machines and hand-work.

We were made welcome, I'd actually come in to buy a pair of shoes, the  store sells shoes and workwear, the shoes I  really wanted were not in stock in my size, sadly, I'd have been happy to purchase here rather than at a possibly cheaper big outlet, because I believe in supporting real, traditional local businesses.

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  1. G'Day, Soub...below is a list of our iconic Akubra hats. I've had a couple throughout the years...they're a great hat.

    1. My dad had an Aussie army Akubra hat, which was given to him on one of his visits to Canberra, as an invited guest of the Australian government, in connection with the work he was doing towards establishing a permanent memorial to the P.O.W.s who died building the 'death railway' in Thailand.
      I'm not sure what happened to it after he died. Must ask my siblings if they know.
      After the war, he returned home with one, a battered, torn, stained old thing whose badges had been ripped off by the japs, its owner had worked with dad at HQ Singapore, and had died in captivity. My dad wore his friend's old hat while gardening, for many years.
      I might just have to buy an Akubra hat, cattleman? After all, I eat steaks.

    2. They're of great quality, Akubra lasts for ever!

  2. Though I've only had it a few years, my Tilley hat has proven itself the hands-down best gear purchase of my life. It goes with me on every hike and every run, day or night.

    1. My local outdoor-store sells Tilleys. Every now and then I try one on, usually they don't have quite the right size, and that saves me from my urge to buy.

      I'm not sure why I haven't bought one yet, maybe its the choice of colours, or materials. I truly am easily confused if I have too many choices. Should I buy the hemp one, I wonder, reading the claim that hemp is the most durable fibre, but then, the standard one, well, they have the story about the zoo-keeper whose elephant ate his hat three times... I suppose the ability to withstand three passes through an elephant is not really an important buying factor. And it shows you the elephant never listened to mama's advice to chew properly before swallowing.

      Too much choice!

  3. I applied for a job once and they wished me to recall all jobs since I began work!!!!
    Hopefully the paperwork will be perfect!
    Don't mention Stalin!

    1. That recalling of everything, oh my. I remember a wise man telling me it was okay to forget stuff. Well, I thought he was wise, now I realise I need to remember everything.

      The hotel I've booked into next week is a smidgen away from the British Museum, looking forward to a wander. Of course, Bloomsbury's packed with bookshops too, which is a sore temptation.


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