The Portis “New Slant”

Now on eBay!  LINKThis vintage fedora was made c. 1950 by Portis.  This model was advertised at that time in Life Magazine.  It has a wide bound brim, similar to a Stetson Whippet. But the detailing on this model is so much cooler.  It has a ribbed ribbon with a slanted detail where the bow would usually be.  It has a c-crown.  The seatband is stamped “Portis Hand Crafted Supreme Breeze”, “The New Slant” and with the name of the store at which it was sold, “Buck’s Toggery” of Menominee, Mich.  The hat is in great shape (sorry about the lens flare on the shot of the bottom of the brim), and is a great, distinctive style, with high quality, chocolate colored fur felt.Size: 7Brim Width: 2-3/4″Ribbon Width: 1-1/4″Crown Height: 5-1/2″    Photobucket

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Eakle Milan Straw

Now on eBay!  LINKThis vintage straw hat was made in the early 1930s.  It is an Italian made Milan straw. It is deadstock from George I. Eakle of 1628 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA.  It has damage to the ribbon from being stored for the past eighty years with another hat stacked on top.  A new ribbon can be put on by Optimo hats in Chicago, one of America premier custom hatmakers for $25, or a new straw hat puggaree can be had for about $10 from a variety of hat shops, so that’s nothing to worry about. The straw is in excellent condition. The sweatband is stamped with the Eakle script, and “Made in Italy”.  It is fully silk lined.  Size: 7-1/8Brim Width: 2-1/2″Ribbon Width: 1-5/8″Crown Height: 5-1/2″    Photobucket

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Eakle Leghorn straw

Now on eBay!  LINKThis vintage straw hat was made in the early 1930s.  It is deadstock from George I. Eakle of 1628 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA.  It has damage to the ribbon from being stored for the past eighty years with another hat stacked on top.  A new ribbon can be put on by Optimo hats in Chicago, one of America premier custom hatmakers for $25, or a new straw hat puggaree can be had for about $10 from a variety of hat shops, so that’s nothing to worry about. There are two small spots of damage on the brim at 10:00 and 1:00 (viewed from the top).  Not tears, but some of the fibers are broken. There is some staining to the bottom of the brim.  There is a mesh lining and silk lining tip.  The sweatband has dropped some stitching at the front, and a bit near the rear sweatband seam.  The sweatband is still supple.  The hat was made by Bonar Phelps of New York.  “Best under the sun”.  The hat has an optimo ridge, with a fairly flat top.  Size: 7-1/8Brim Width: 2-1/2″Ribbon Width: 2-1/4″Crown Height: 4-1/2″     Photobucket

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Eakle Optimo Crown

Now on eBay!  LINKThis vintage straw hat was made in the early 1930s.  It is deadstock, from George I Eakle of 1628 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA.  It is made of extremely high quality milan straw.  There is a one inch section of dropped stitching, easily fixable, on the brim, and a bit of darker color to the top of the brim from age.  It has a distinctive twisted bow knot, and an optimo crown.  The hat has a wide leather sweatband.  There is a slight tear to the right of the logo, but the leather is still super supple.  The has is fully lined, with a pleated silk liner.  A blind embossed logo indicates that the hat was made in Italy.Size: 7-1/8Brim Width: 2-1/2″Ribbon Width: 1-5/8″Crown Height: 5″    Photobucket

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X Rated – a guide to felt quality

Go to any hat shop or westernwear store and look around.  You’re bound to come across a bevy of hats with different “X” ratings.  XXX quality.  10X beaver.  But what does it all mean?

I sell a lot of vintage hats and a question I get all the time is, “What would you estimate the X value of the felt as?”  It’s a simple question with a not-so-simple answer.

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X value depends on age
Over the years, there has been significant “X Value Inflation”. An example: In the 1930s, Stetson’s top of the line X value was a 5X. 5X got you an undyed pure beaver hat of the highest order- the kind of hat given as presentation pieces, and selling, when new, for about eight times (or more) what a standard fur felt Stetson would have run. These days, Stetson’s comparable offering would probably be the 100X El presidente, which retails in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars. It’s not that the hat is 20 times better quality than their old top of the line, it’s purely inflation.
And if you compare apples to apples- the same manufacturer with the same X rating, but from different years, you may be in for a shock. I have had 7X Stetsons from the 1950s which have beautifully dense and soft to the touch felt, and 7X stetsons from the 1970s which are rough and porous.

X value depends on maker
The X rating system is not consistent maker to maker. A vintage XXX Stetson is not the same quality as a vintage XXX Resistol is not the same quality as a vintage XXX Portis. Some makers used Xs, others used Stars, but the idea is the same. For a given year and a given maker, the system can be useful. A new 10X is a better and more expensive hat than a new 3X from the same maker. But with no real industry oversight, no “Felt Hat FDA” to answer to, there’s nothing to prevent a company from putting forward a hat of inferior quality and marking it 3X to go up against 3Xs of other companies. To defend against this “X Undercutting”, other companies have to raise their X values to reflect what other companies are making, and next thing you know, you get sometimes extreme, and uneven inflation.
Another high priced example: Stetson’s thousand dollar offering is a 100X. Larry Mahan’s thousand dollar offering is a 500X. Is the Larry Mahan a better hat? Maybe, maybe not. Is it 5 times the quality of the Stetson, and therefore are you getting some kind of amazing deal on it? No.

X value depends on product lineup
Stetson makes hats marked 2X all the way up through 1000X. What does Stetson have to say about what their X’s mean? Not much at all. The X value really depends on what a particular company decides to mark the bottom and top qualities as, and then how they decide to break that down.

X value depends on marketing
2X beaver quality? That sounds okay, right? Must have some good beaver content in it. Well- no.
2X beaver can be a completely wool hat depending on the company and year. No beaver content, no fur felt in it at all.

X value is different straw vs. felt
You can buy a 10,000X Straw cowboy hat new for under $200. Not that it really means a whole lot in felt, but as both felt and straw hats use an X rating system, it would seem that it’s the same system. Unfortunately, it’s not. It’s a different system, equally arbitrary, and equally meaningless outside of individual product lines.

The X system can be useful in some ways, though. If you’re buying new from a particular maker, you can use it to compare models. Similarly, if you know how to accurately date vintage hats, you can use it somewhat similarly. But generally speaking, when buying vintage hats, it’s more of a distraction than an asset when talking quality, especially for beginner collectors, people who buy primarily modern production hats, or people with a background in western hats.

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Stratton Milan Fedora

Now on eBay!  LINK

This hat was made by Stratton hats of Chicago, IL.  They make the majority of uniform hats in the USA.  This one is made of extremely tough, high quality milan straw.  It has a tall crown and wide brim, and is creased with a teardrop crown with front pinches.  The sweatband is cloth.  The hat has heavy fading from sun exposure on the top of the brim and the crown.  Stratton makes a good sturdy hat, and while the fading probably prevents this from being worn in a dressier context, it will take just about anything you can throw at it and be fine.Size: 7-3/8Brim Width: 3″Crown Height: 6″    Photobucket

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Half and half straw workwear fedora

Now on eBay!  LINK

This is a really unusual hat.  The crown is made out of a fine weave straw with ventilation.  It looks like it was woven in flat sheets on a loom as opposed to traditional panama weaving, however.  It is cut and stitched in four panels to form the crown.  The are two ventilation grommets in either side of the crown.  It is blocked with a teardrop crease.  The brim is heavy canvas, spiral stitched for added rigidity, with a bound edge.  The sweatband is fabric. Size: 6-3/4Brim Width: 2-3/4″Ribbon Width: 1-1/8″    Photobucket

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Bangora Fedora

Now on eBay!  LINK

This vintage fedora was made in the 1940s.  It was an inexpensive summer straw at the time, but of surprisingly nice quality.  This is the kind of hat which simply does not survive.  Like vintage eight panel caps, they were meant to be worn for a season or two and then replaced.  It features classic fedora styling, with a diamond ventilation pattern in the side of the crown reminiscent of that found on Stetson Playboys of this time frame.  The weave of the straw is extremely fine.  The hat has darkening due to age, and the band has fading. The sweatband is hard, but still perfectly in-tact and not warped.Size: 6-3/4Brim Width: 2-3/4″Band Width: 1-3/4″    Photobucket

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