Western & English Today

Spring 2016

W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.

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SPRING 2016 Western & English Today 29 K eith Mundee, president of American Hat Company, and company owner Keith Maddox have come up with a fool- proof method for fguring out what kind of straw hats will sell this — or any — season. "If we pull a sample out of a box," Mundee says, "and Keith Maddox and I hate it, it will be our top seller." As an example, Mundee pulls of the rack American Hat's No. 1 straw seller for 2016 — style No. 5600 — a multicolored, lacquer-coated, hand-woven (actually, wildly weaved), fancy- vented hat with a 4¼-inch brim and S-Minnick crown. "Te day of the plain white straw hat with three eyelets in the side? Tat day has gone," Mundee says. "Tat was your dad- dy's hat; actually, your granddaddy's." As Brent Atwood, founder of Atwood Hat Company in Frankston, Texas, puts it: "Te less conservative you are, the better of you are for that younger buyer." Dallas Hats president Eddie A. Morales puts it a little more bluntly. "Ugly hats," he calls them. In short, straw hats with taller crowns and wider brims with wilder weaves and a wide array of colors should drive the sum- mer market again in 2016, industry insiders say, continuing a recent trend. "Te styles and choices in straw hats have just blown up," says Scott Catalena of Bryan, Texas-based Catalena Hatters. "It's a little less simple when you're trying to pick what you want to carry, but it's great for the customer." More vents are in demand at Milano Hat Company, says Scott Starnes, an executive vice president at Milano's parent company, Dorfman Pacifc. "Our customers are demanding more interest- ing weave patterns and using multiple straw color combinations, the fancier the better," Starnes says. "Tere's a defnite movement out there to be diferent from the rest of the crowd. You'll also notice that brims on straw hats are getting even wider than last year. It's not unusual for us to get requests for 5- and 6-inch brims on straws, where not too long ago the widest brims were just 4 inches." TIMELESS TOPPERS Another possible trend can be seen at Denver, Pennsylvania- based Bailey Hat Company (owned by Bollman Hat Company), which has turned its catalog into year-round oferings. "It makes everybody's life a lot easier," says Leah Andrus, Bailey Western's national sales manager. "Back in the day, you didn't wear a straw hat afer Labor Day, but that's changing drastically. It has tru- ly moved to a year-round business. People are wearing straws when it's technically felt season, and we've geared up for that. It's a changing business." Te converse is also true — straw season is now felt season. Case in point: Vic Pietkiewicz, a sales representative for F&M Hat Company, says his most popular hat this season is the uni- sex Rattler, a 100-percent crushable wool topper in black or serpent. Wearing felt hats in the summer makes sense, says Greeley Hat Works' Trent Johnson. "People will say they're hot, but 80 percent of your body's heat escapes through your head. So once you get acclimated to it, it's not going to get any hotter." Over at Stetson Hats and Resistol, Ricky Bolin, general man- ager for parent company Hatco, notes that most Stetson and Re- sistol wearers still go by that old-school calendar that says straw hats come of on Labor Day and felt hats come of on Easter. But: "It's not as much as it used to be just because of the weather. I mean, I've hunted in a short-sleeve shirt in Texas in November. Light colors in felt hats have gotten more popular so that people can wear them a little later in the summertime." ABOVE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP CENTER: AMERICAN HAT CO., F&M, CHARLIE 1 HORSE, AND BAILEY HATS. OPPOSITE: CHARLIE 1 HORSE. P H OTO G R A P HY: S T U D I O S E V E N P R O D U C T I O N S

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