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Essential Journal

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Brimmed & Bespoke

Despite often being confined to considers of the shirt on your back and the leather around your feet, there’s more to the term ‘bespoke’ than suits and boots. Saville Row tailor turned custom hatter, Marcel Rodrigues, adds a touch of custom flare to an all-important but under-appreciated wardrobe staple

words by Will HALBERT

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into the art of hat making?
My journey in high-end men’s fashion started on Savile Row, where I worked as a trainee tailor and sales person for Cad and the Dandy. I always wore hats and one day I decided to try making custom hats, offering a similar experience that you can expect when purchasing a bespoke suit. Long story short, I researched the history of hat making, traditional techniques, invested in antique hat making equipment, fine tuned my skills and, hey presto, Marcel Rodrigues was Born.

What does the concept of style mean to you? How would you describe your own, personal style in general?
Style is a lot more than how you dress. It’s the way you carry yourself, it’s about having confidence in what your wearing. With being a custom hatter it’s all about style. We create hats for our clients that suit their own personal style and lifestyle. Style to me is not a trend but rather a way of reflecting your individuality and personality. My personal style I would describe as being eclectic. I like mixing fine tailoring with vintage with a twist of skater/surfer

Do you have a preferred style of hat, or a style that’s particularly popular with clients?
I prefer making on-off works of art – something that is different and stands out. I often have a brief from a client for a bespoke order and will make the hat to that brief. But overall, I love creating something different that stands out as an original piece. 

How long does the bespoke hat making process typically take? What are the steps along the way?
It takes up to eight hours to make a hat. The process starts off with steaming the fur felt hat body until it’s soft before blocking the hat on an open crown hat block. I’ll then steam the brim down and – using a tool called a foot tolliker – I’ll start making a nice clean break between the brim and the crown. After leaving the hat to dry, it’s time to pounce the hat. This essentially means sanding down the long hairs to give the hat lovely smooth, soft hand. Once the hat is pounced I’ll then singe any remaining long hairs and proceed to cut the brim to size. When brim has been cut to size, it’s time to start making the sweatband to the correct size before stitching it in place within the hat.

The next step is steaming and shaping the crown before tacking on the ribbon and bow. The brim is then ironed flat and on of our embroidered linings is placed. The hat is then finished off with one of our signature beaded safety pins and other bespoke, artistic detailing such as hand stitching, embroidery, paint, beads, fabric detailing, feathers etc.

For those new to the realm of brimmed hats, what advice would you give on how they should fit? Is there a particular style they should start out with? 
Well it is important that the hat is in proportion to your body shape and height. Fit is very important – I always say to my clients you should just feel the hat sitting on your head, it shouldn’t be too tight or too loose. People have a tendency to push hats too far down on the head. 

For those who are wanting their first ever hat, I’d say go for something custom which suits your lifestyle and personality and that you’re comfortable in. That way you can create something special to you that is designed with you specifically in mind. People often feel they don’t suit hats but are converted when they start off with a hat is designed to suit their proportions and fits correctly.

Is there a particular era in time that stands out for you in terms of style?
There are two for me: The first is the 50s when the majority of men were wearing hats (though you also had your rockers, which is important). Second for me is the 1970s – the golden age of skateboarding in my eyes. You had Dogtown and Z boys. This was an era that just screamed cool, there was so much influence from the surf scene and this really showed in the style.

How do you think people will look back at this decade in terms of its predominant styles? What do you think will come to define it?
I think people will look at this decade and split it into two categories. Refined tailoring and vintage clothing. People have been far more adventurous by mixing the two and really making it work. I do hope it continues.

Do you have any style icons or key influences that spring to mind?
For me, Steve McQueen and James Dean are my style icons. But it could  also be someone who may be at the beach or who comes into my shop and are just really cool and there are elements which I love of their own personal style.

And lastly, what’s your personal favourite way to style a hat?
I don’t really have a particular way of styling my hats. They are a staple in my wardrobe, so I wear them with everything. That’s my philosophy towards hats in general: when I’m making a hat I ensure it works with everything I have. My hats should always look good with anything I have on.