11 Iconic Women’s Felt Hat Brands for Impeccable Elegance
Playful berets. Mysterious fedoras. Chic cloches. From the Wild West to the high streets of Paris, no other fashion accessory boasts a history as diverse as that of the hat or has the ability to transform a look as unique as its wearer. The women’s felt hat, especially, has enjoyed essential status for centuries. Though no longer a required element of a woman’s dress code, this vital piece of felt hat continues to be a statement of impeccable style, sophistication, and individuality.
These 10 famous hat brands have mastered the art of the handcrafted women’s felt hat to perfection. Employing traditional techniques preserved through the years, from antique wood molds to fine handcrafted embellishments, or looking towards the future with new designs and methods, their visionary felt hats have built a global legacy. Delve into the fascinating world of millinery—and discover your own distinctive hat style— through their unique stories.
Lock & Co. Hatters
Signature: British sophistication
Based in: London, UK
The world’s oldest hat shop and Royal Warrant holder, Lock & Co. Hatters began its story in 1662 when hatter Robert Davis opened his storefront on St. James’s Street in London. It is now in its 7th generation of family ownership. This company invented the bowler felt hat in 1849, as a more practical gamekeepers’ alternative to top hats. Multiple high-profile public figures have sought the milliner’s services over the years, from Admiral Lord Nelson’s bicorne worn at the Battle of Trafalgar, to Sir Winston Churchill’s wedding Lock top hat, to Charlie Chaplin, Jacqueline Kennedy, and even Queen Elizabeth II for whom Lock designed her coronation crown fitments.
Signature: The classic French beret
Based in: Paris, France
No other headwear is as ubiquitously French as the beret; and no one does this classic felt hat quite like Maison Laulhère. Founded in 1830 at the foothills of the French Pyrenees, Laulhère has been perfecting the art of the beret for over 180 years, using ancestral heritage held now by only a select handful. The process begins with vibrant, naturally sourced pigments, and then trimming elements are added such as the traditional “bouffette” ribbon knot. Finally, the last step of “bichonnage” ensures every final detail is impeccable.
Signature: Silver-screen glamour
Based in: Alessandria, Italy
A cinematic legacy sets Italian hatmaker Borsalino apart—Italy’s oldest luxury hat manufacturer, founded in 1857. Borsalino’s felt hats first captured the interest of Hollywood in 1900, leading to memorable cinematographic moments including the unforgettable final scene of ‘Casablanca,’ spotlighting the famous hat. In 1970, Borsalino was the first luxury brand to allow its name to be used as the title of a film; and in 2011, the brand’s relationship with cinema became the subject of an exhibition in Milan.
Signature: Rugged Western style
Based in: Philadelphia, USA
That famous Western felt hat—an icon of the American West and its free spirit—owes its existence to John B. Stetson. The son of a hatter, Stetson first crafted himself a hat made from thick beaver felt while panning for gold in Colorado, finding the large, wide-brimmed shape practical and protective from the elements. In 1865, he opened his own hat company in Philadelphia, creating a hat design that he called “Boss of the Plains” based on his expeditions in the West. The hat, which became the cornerstone of the Stetson business, remains in production today.
Signature: Rabbit fur felt bush hats
Based in: Kempsey, Australia
Deriving its name from the Aboriginal word for ‘head covering,’ Akubra is an Australian hat manufacturer whose specialty is the bush hat: a wide-brimmed style made of rabbit fur felt. The company got its start in 1874, when English hatmaker Benjamin Dunkerley opened a business in Tasmania and developed a new mechanical method of using rabbit fur in felt hat making. His hats have enjoyed particular popularity among sportsmen, worn at numerous Olympic games, and have gained widespread fame after the iconic ‘the Croc’ hat made its appearance in the hit film ‘Crocodile Dundee.’
Signature: Heritage haute couture millinery
Based in: Paris, France
Known as one of Chanel’s highly skilled Métiers d’art ateliers, Maison Michel has been at the helm of French craftsmanship since 1936 when Auguste Michel opened the millinery in Paris. By the 1970s, Maison Michel was the hat maker of choice for Parisian haute couture. Its distinctive creations employ masterful techniques of fabric stretching, draping turbans, and sewing straw, with the hats still handcrafted on some 3000 tillia wood blocks collected over the years.
Rachel Trevor Morgan
Signature: Royal elegance
Based in: London, UK
British hatmaker Rachel Trevor-Morgan has built a business with a royal legacy. A childhood love of theater and costume design ignited her passion, followed by training in the craft of couture millinery. In 2014 she was granted the Royal Warrant to the Queen who, along with other members of the royal family, has worn Rachel’s hats for many high profile events, from the Royal Ascot to her 80th birthday celebration. With over 30 years of experience, Rachel’s team guides its clients to the perfect hat style and etiquette for any occasion.
Signature: Huckleberry Finn meets Hollywood vibe
Based in: Los Angeles, USA
“People who wear hats are a kind of rare, naturally selecting tribe,” says L.A. hatmaker Nick Fouquet. A Los Angeles vibe with European sensibility and a touch of Huckleberry Finn’s wild spirit are just some of the elements defining his pieces, which are made with 100% beaver fur felt. An environmental science graduate, Fouquet stumbled into hatmaking by chance, quickly gaining acclaim with European couturiers, while his distinctive, laid-back felt hat designs made him a darling of celebrities like Madonna and Justin Bieber.
Signature: Playful femininity
Based in: New York City, USA
A graduate of Parsons School of Design, New York city designer Gigi Burris was first fascinated by millinery through the pieces she found in vintage mercerie shops in Paris. Her aptitude for couture handiwork and intricate handmade detail has led her to the helm of the hat making industry, with her exquisite hat and headwear line featuring women’s felt hats intricately embellished with handcrafted flowers, feathers, alligator skins, ribbons, and other playful details.
Signature: Eastern European motifs
Based in: Kyiv, Ukraine
Ruslan Baginskiy’s Ukrainian roots inspired his foray into hat making, which he began in local artisan workshops. Looking through archival photographs, he sought to bring back the culture of hat wearing, with his designs taking cues from native Ukrainian folk art and costume. Baginskiy’s utilitarian yet trendy takes on traditional felt hats have been featured in magazines and media and have gained him a global celebrity following, with Miley Cyrus, Natalia Vodianova, and Coco Rocha among the so-called ‘RB Girls.’
Signature: Sustainable Earth-friendly style
Based in: Florence, Italy
Award-winning Florence-based hat brand SUPERDUPER was founded in 2011, growing out of creative experimentation and a desire to challenge the status quo. Each purchase is made to order, thereby reducing waste and inventory, by a team of young artisans working to transform the finest raw materials into a hat in 72 hours. Each piece is finished with a stitched earthpiece™ trademark that marks its connection to Earth, and passing on age-old methods to the next generation fosters the company’s commitment to leaving a legacy for the world of tomorrow.