Sunday, May 22, 2011

Shantung Panama Fedora

Since the first use of Shantung (aka Shantung Panama) to make hats, the material remains widely a mystery. Many people believe that shantung hats are made of natural straw. It is actually made out of a high performance paper which is rolled into a yarn to imitate straw. Furthermore, many people believe that shantung paper yarn is made out of rice paper. Rice paper is actually a misnomer. Currently, there are no papers being made out of rice. Although, for the size papers made out of Kozo, Gampi and Mitsumata, rice starch was traditionally used. (This is probabaly where the name "rice paper" comes from.) Kozo, Gampi and Mitsumata were originally used to make the high performance paper. The paper was named "Washi" by the Japanese who perfected the technique in 610 AD after Korean Buddhist monks learned the Chinese technique and introduced it to Japan. (The Chinese invented the technique of making this paper during the first century.) Washi literally meaning "Japanese Paper," became famous worldwide for it's unique characteristics. Washi is thinner and lighter in weight yet stronger than any other paper. In recent years, because of quantity, availability, and tensile strength, washi is now mainly being produced with the Manila Hemp plant. (Musa Textilis, Abaca) The Manila Hemp plant is native to the Philippine Islands, but it can also be found in other parts of the world. (ie. Central America, Indonesia, Australia, Borneo, etc.) The majority of the world's production still remains largely in the Philippine Islands.

In the mid-1900's, natural panama straw became scarce and hat manufacturer were in desperate need of finding a replacement. Washi was then introduced as an alternative and was perfect for making hats. Wanting a better name for the hat industry, "Washi" was renamed to "Shantung Panama". It quickly became widely accepted because of its similarity in looks to the natural panama straw. It was also very durable, light weight, and cost effective.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


It has been 100 years since the last royal British visit to Ireland and boy how things have changed. Back then king George and queen Mary arrived as uninvited conquerors who governed an immense empire. It was a pompous affair to remind the Irish that we were inferior to our British overloads.
Betty arrived yesterday, an invited guest of a free people. YEP, she still a Queen but her empire and power has long vanished. Dressed in green from head to toe she looked like a cross between an Aer Lingus trolley dolly and an American tourist searching for her roots.
Unlike the Pope John Paul's kiss of the sacret and holy Irish ground
which  won over the Irish druids, pagans and leprechauns, Betty's debarkation was rather light footed.
I think she looked down and considered it and trust me, from one that has descended many an Irish flight, that hat is stapled to her head. I have chase many a capeen down the tarmac.

IRISH women historically did not wear hats preferring hooded clocks, so I am glad that our strapping President Mary Mc Alesse refrained from a fasinator or scariator. After the formalities, Betty was ready for her hols and some sight seeing.

Memorial to the Irish freedom fighters (British preferred to call them terrorist).
oh yes and where your soldiers mowed down 14 Innocent people watching a hurling game.
But it is over. We have moved on. We accept you apology for pass wrongs but you must accept that we cannot forget nor delete from our cultural memories the brutality that your lineage  handed down to our families. So Betty, let bygones be bygones. Have a great trip, we wish you a thousand welcomes, may the sun shine on you and tell all your friends to come visit. Keep smiling.

but as we say here in the USA (the other country that got away), these colors do not run.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Nordstroms hat displays

Norstroms San Francisco has some great hat displays right now. They are more like art sculptures than store displays. Wish I know here they picked them up.
Old, hand blocks are made from wood. These are industrial quality and are made from aluminium.
On wooden blocks the felt/straw is steamed and then pulled by hand over the block. With the aluminium molds the felt/straw are steamed and then pressed onto the block. The felt/straw is sandwiched in between the aluminium base and female top.
the molds are used to block a homburg hat.
the mold on the let has an asymmetric brim. The right is a safari shape. I think thee might be ladies hat molds.
this might bean open crown western.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


I think it is rather fascinating that pre William and Kate's royal marriage few commoners know what a fascinator was. According to a CCN new reports "they are hats that fasten to the head" which sounds a little scary to me as I imagine someone trying to staple the hat to their head. Lets look at the work fascinate to get a clue as to the ethnology.

First Known Use of FASCINATING



Ergo, we deduce that a fascinator is a hat enhances the wearers looks. Fasinators, which are small diminutive hats, were inspired after the petites hats worn by Princess Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon 111. They became popular in the 1930's as a revolution to the face hiding cloche styles of the 1920's and also it was hard to get excessive materials as garnish for more classic hats during the depression.
So, princess Beatrice's scary creation is a scarinator and not a fascinator Princess Eugenie looks like a bovine beauty in hers.
Is that Robbin Williams trying to gate-crash the event?
In the 1930's when fascinator where "la derniere cri", a writer for ESQUIRE proposed that "these unflattering hats were a plot hatched by homosexual milliners to make women look ridiculously unattractive to men".
Leave to to the older girls to carry off the fascinator look. Sally Bercow keeps it simple and looks alluring. Victoria Beckham, should have put her hair up in a chignon to balance the forehead fascinator position but still look bewitching. Tara Pelmer Tomkinston pulls the whole look off to perfection and looks quite FASCINATING.