PorkPie Hatters in Williamsburg is part hat store and part workshop. Beyond the cabinet stocked full of bowlers, fedoras, and panama hats is a clear view of craftsmen at work turning limp felt into the clean structured shapes we are familiar with. It is a little bit like magic. The billowing steam and measured pulls against the hat block make it seem like they are doing something supernatural and, to our modern society that disconnects makers and consumers, they are. The magic that happens isn't just that the shop makes hats by hand using a combination of old and new technology, but what that means on a larger scale for the American economy. Porkpie is one of many small companies on the forefront of a movement that is bringing competitive advantages back to the manufacturing process in the USA.
It's hard not to notice the growing prevalence of “Made in the USA” tags. Even in the visual overload of subway advertising, the “Made in NY” logo jumps out more and more. It's not just me, manufacturing in the US has been a consistent talking point in media lately from Time magazine to the Economist to President Obama's State of the Union address. According to Time Magazine “The U.S. Has seen its manufacturing growth outpace that of other advanced nations, with some 500,000 jobs created in the past three years. [...] Every $1 of manufacturing activity returns $1.48 to the economy.” It's being called the manufacturing renaissance and it is steadily raising the status of “Made in the USA” labels.
What is worth noting is that it is the small manufacturers and designers that are creating the bulk of this momentum. Realizing they cannot compete with large companies mass producing goods overseas, the focus of many of these small companies is on quality and innovation. All these factors have been creating greater demand for US made products. Willy Shih, co-author of Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance wrote “The ability to make things is fundamental to the ability to innovate things over the long term […] When you give up making products you lose a lot of the added value”. I'll go deeper into technological innovations with Porkpie in a later post (so watch for that), but what is important to take away from this quote is that the strength our economy gains from innovation can only be acquired through a history of domestic manufacturing. In Porkpie Hatters case, though it first opened its doors in 2011, owner Sean O'Toole comes from a long line of haberdashers and is no stranger to the process.
The hat you get from Porkpie has an element of the traditional, of old techniques and hand craftsmanship that sets it apart. The value of that end product is readily apparent. But to our changing economy the value of manufacturing in the US translates to a brighter future of growth overall. Having a shop that can produce traditional quality goods, customize instantly, and evolve its methods and technology with the demands of customers gives Porkpie a leading edge in this manufacturing renaissance.
Pork Pie Hatters East village customer Chris Wallace was recently featured in a street style shoot for Details Magazine. In the pictures he looks great! Firstly, I commend Chris on his overall look and his ability to pull off a Borsalino Classico with ease. What caught my attention was the perfectly worn-in condition of his fedora. It quickly sparked a debate in the shop about hat care and maintenance. The traditionalists argued quite convincingly that hat care was part of responsible hat ownership. That the hats we sell are made with such care and attention to detail that it is a shame to let them be worn to the edge of destruction. The guys spend their days reconditioning hats that have been worn for decades. They said that taking proper care of a hat is the right thing to do.
The less fussy salesmen argued that If you love your hat, it doesn't matter how you show your love. Some people express it by obsessively keeping it out of the rain, and bringing it in every few weeks for a free cleaning and a steam. Others, including Mr. Wallace, wear their hats in, get them just the way they like them, and use them as an umbrella. We have equal respect for both types of hat guys. However I must say that there is something about a properly broken-in hat. A hat that has seen things that you've seen and felt things that you've felt. It is irreplaceable. Luckily we're here to help you try! ; )
Shop small on Saturday 11/24 with your American Express card and receive incentives from your card issuer. Go to AmericanExpress.com for more details. To celebrate Small Business Saturday Pork Pie Hatters East Village will have extended hours. Our hours for Saturday are listed below. Be sure to shop small this holiday season at JJ Hat Center and Pork Pie Hatters.
Hours Sat 11/24:
JJ Hat Center------------------- 9:30am to 5:30pm
Pork Pie Hatters (E. Village)- 9:00am to 8:00pm
Pork Pie Hatters (Brooklyn)-- 12:00pm to 8:00pm
This week, we have received many emails, phone calls and Facebook messages from customers and friends all around the world. We appreciate the concern, and have been truly moved by the well wishes we've gotten from as far away as Asia, and as close as Brooklyn. All of our guys made it through just fine, and while some of us may still not have power, all of our families are doing well. Rod, Colin, Jose, Marc, and Kevin are manning JJ's for the next few days. Sean and Gabe will be at the Brooklyn store. We will reopen the East Village shop as soon as the electricity is restored. Come by, share your storm stories, and get warmed up if you need to. We're here, doing what we've done for the past 101 years.
With tropical storm Sandy looming off the Eastern Seaboard, the rain is going to be intense this coming week. Our Rain Collection is sure to keep you dry and warm during the storm. Any of our Fur Felt hats also perform well on rainy days, but be warned, the type of soaking that Sandy is looking to bring our way may result in a hat that needs to be reshaped. Not to worry though, we will reshape any hat that may need it free of charge.
We are New York's oldest and one of the world's most renowned hat shops. Established in 1911, we bring you the finest hats and caps coupled with excellent service and a staff consisting of some of the most knowledgeable hat people in the industry. We provide hands on service, expert advice and a well rounded selection of headwear that includes fedoras, newsboy caps, berets and much more.