I was given the opportunity to speak with the man behind Hat About Town. At the age twenty- four, he makes you question what you are doing with your life; he knows his passion and he works for it. This is but a brief synopsis of a florid romance with hats.
Gabriella Yosca: I think you need to clarify your name for everyone. When are you Mr. Hat, and when are you La Touchè?
Mr. Hat*: Since being in New York, I’ve realized how important branding is. For me, I would always introduce myself as La Touchè. But here, at events, people introduce me as Mr. Hat even when I go in to say “La Touchè.” One of the big directors at the Bollman Hat Factory told me: “No, you’re Mr.Hat.” So, leaving here, I’m going to be Mr. Hat when I’m speaking to people in the industry and La Touchè when I want it to be personal.
Gabriella Yosca: What was your first hat?
Mr. Hat*: So this is something not many people know, but it was a navy denim baseball cap. I was about eleven or twelve. So, there’s always that one cool guy in school and you never forget his name. For me, he was Andre Mc Taggart. He had older brothers so he’d always get things quite quickly. One day he came in wearing this really cool cap and I thought, “I’m going to get myself one.” I managed to glance and see the New Era flag on the side. That weekend, I went to the market, saw the sign and bought it. But when I wore it to school, everyone laughed at me because it was a fake. Andre came over and gave me the card for the actual store off Piccadilly Circus near Soho. Growing up where I did in London was like growing up in The Bronx or Brooklyn back then. It was quite rough. When I told my parents I wanted to go to the hat shop, they told me I had to go with my older brother. I remember it was quite amazing once we got to the hat shop. Seeing all the hats on the wall was epic, but what really got me was the customer experience. I felt like I was the only one there because of the way they treated me and wrapped the hat up. It was a black baseball cap with an orange P on it. Then I got addicted and bought two caps a week. By the time I was seventeen or eighteen, I had over 150 hats. I didn’t really slow down until I got the hat from my grandfather.
Gabriella Yosca: Is that one your favorite?
Mr. Hat*: Yea, my grandfather’s hat means a lot to me. My grandfather will always be the symbolic reason as to why I wear hats. Without his hat, he just looked like granddad, but with his hat on, his look completely transformed. He became this character. Even when he wasn’t well, he would sit his hat on the bed or on the headboard at the hospital. You wouldn’t know him without it. I remember he always put his initials and home address on the inside of his hat for when he used to travel. He would always tell me people are going to try to take your hat and say that it’s theirs. That was really cool.
Gabriella Yosca: Do you initial your hats?
Mr. Hat*: Only some of them. So, just before he died, when I was eighteen, he gave me his black rabbit fur trilby (a hat that I used to try on as a child) which he’d had since the 1940’s. The thing that struck a chord was that we ended up being the same hat size. His hat is the closest thing I have to remind me of him, which is why I’m never seen without a hat. As long as I’m wearing a hat, part of him is with me.
Gabriella Yosca: Do your parents wear hats?
Mr. Hat*: My father wears hats, but not as consistently. He wore hats more in the 70’s and 80’s. His father used to. It was my mother’s father who gave me the hat. My mum wore some hats. My dad actually used to make her hats for church, which is quite ironic. You would think I would have mentioned that in the beginning. My dad is really creative; he can just touch something and make something happen. I think it’s an old school thing—being good with his hands, you know. All the women were like “where did you get your hat from? It looks like a designer made it,” so he started taking orders. He didn’t want to turn it into a business. He just wanted something to keep his hands busy while he watched TV. You would think that I would use this as the main iconic foundation, but I didn’t program it. I was unaware that they were headpieces when I was younger, so I was always thinking, “why is my dad fiddling with women’s stuff?” It wasn’t until I was twenty or twenty-one that I remembered. It actually just really hit me that, yeah, my dad used to make hats. When I get back to London, we’re going to have to have a conversation!
Gabriella Yosca: How were you introduced to the business end of the fashion world?
Mr. Hat*: I come from a very unorthodox background. I went to college to study IT but really wasn’t enjoying it. Things happened in my life that made me change my path. One of the places where I was working was Topshop Oxford Circus. That’s where I met Aaron Christian, who is the Co- founder of Individualism. I remember he was saying to me he wanted to start this blog and that it was going to celebrate men’s fashion. Within a year, he got it going and, within two years, it blew up. Aaron invited me to a big fashion event and watched how I interacted with people there. He said “you make it look so easy. I want you on my team.” So that’s how I ended up doing PR.
I had never done PR, so I was thrown into the deep end and just started to learn as I went along. I made loads of mistakes, as you do. Still making mistakes. I was with Individualism for three years and gained lots of experience, made some great contacts and just kind of got to learn more about men’s fashion, fashion as a whole, and how content works. With Individualism, the reason why they were unique at their time was because they only created original content.
Gabriella Yosca: How did that help you with Hat About Town?
Mr. Hat*: When I was kind of thrown into that career, I learned something called “The Three E’s” that people tend to want from advertising: educate, engage and entertain. For example, when my followers ask me to post more “how to” tutorials on how to clean or reshape their hat, that’s educating, which also is engaging. I’m sharing something with them that they can benefit from, so now we have a common interest. I’m also realizing how much more into advertising New York is than London. So, being here has inspired me to take this whole Mr. Hat stuff to the next level.
Gabriella Yosca: Why do you only show hats and not faces or outfits on Hat About Town?
Mr. Hat*: From working in fashion on editorials, I noticed there would be no mention of the headwear in the credits. And, in the first stages of Instagram, when female bloggers would post an outfit they would say “my shirt is from here, my trousers are from here, my shoes are from here,” as if they weren’t wearing a hat. I would comment on the photo and ask “where’s the hat from?” I wanted a platform to show my love for hats. I was so obsessed that my friends got bored. I needed a way to talk about it. So, I started Hat About Town. And that’s why I only focus on the hat.
Gabriella Yosca: Do you seek out or stumble upon hats for Hat About Town?
Mr. Hat*: Probably nine out of ten times I stumble only because, with the whole hat spotting, it’s more about wherever I am that I’ll spot a hat and don’t need to seek it.
Gabriella Yosca: What makes a hat picture worthy? What’s it like finding a good hat?
Mr. Hat*: The feeling is quite amazing; I always geek out when I see a hat I love. In the beginning, I would kind of snap any hat. I wouldn’t really think much about it because my end goal is to get more people to wear hats. But now, because I’m more experienced and I consult for Lock & Co. Hatters, my taste has matured. I feel as if I’ve become a hat snob, which is really bad. Now I can tell if a hat comes from H&M or Topshop, and I can also tell if it’s wool felt or rabbit fur felt.
But, it’s also about the cool design or detail. The hat I’m wearing today is wool felt, but it has really cool paint splatter on it. So, if it’s different or interesting, I’ll snap it.
Gabriella Yosca: When did you realize people cared about Hat About Town as much as you?
Mr. Hat*: One of my favorite highlights is when I met Keely Hunter, who is one of the best milliners in the world. I’ve adopted her as my mentor. I went to one of her events, and she came up to me and said, “I’ve got a bit of a strange question. Are you Hat About Town?” And I said, “I am. How do you know it’s me?” And she said “everyone else is here for the drinks and music, but you’re taking pictures. You’re really interested in the hats.” A week later, we met up at her studio and within another week, she was showing me how to make my first hat. She also invited me out to events, including my first Headonism, which is a hat exhibition curated by Stephen Jones OBE during London Fashion Week, and also to her alumni class at KCC. When I went to the alumni event, she introduced me to other milliners and PR’s at some of London’s top millinery houses such as Stephen Jones, Phillip Treacy and Noel Stewarts. During the party, two girls came up to me and yelled, “Hat About Town!” They just had a feeling too, which was weird, because back then I hadn’t been tagged in photos, so it really was just a connection people had. At Headonism, Stephen Jones told me he liked one of my tweets and that he was happy about Hat About Town, which was really cool. That all kind of gave me the boost I needed to keep going. But after a year and a half, I was thinking of giving it a rest, not in a negative way, but just like an “it’s been fun” thing when I got invited to KCC on my own. This young lady came up to me and asked if I was Hat About Town. She told me I was the reason why she started her millinery course. Her stuff is really awesome and now she works for another great milliner in London. I went home that night and I told myself I couldn’t stop. I have to keep this going.
Gabriella Yosca: What motivates you?
Mr. Hat*: When I say my family, I mean my whole family, but also just my mum. She is my main source as to why I’m motivated and refuse to give up. Every day, I wake up and give thanks to the Big Man upstairs, because I know that, without God, nothing is impossible. And then I think about how all I want to do is make my family proud. Like, I came here for holiday and ended up having a very enjoyable experience. Everything I do has purpose. I may not know what I want to achieve that day but I know I want it to be productive.
Gabriella Yosca: Is there a Mrs. Hat?
Mr. Hat*: Not at the moment.
Gabriella Yosca: Is there an ideal Mrs. Hat?
Mr. Hat*: Maybe a Mrs. Hat who has more hats than me. That might challenge me. I’m not interested in a relationship right now. I just like focusing on what I’m trying to achieve so I can get myself right first. I came close to finding one but she lived too far away. But she definitely has to like hats and I would like her to be able to make a basic hat. I can always teach her. I find that pretty exciting.
Gabriella Yosca: Speaking of ladies, you played drums for Rihanna at the Brit Awards. How did you land that gig? What was that like?
Mr. Hat*: Oh, it was amazing and absolutely EPIC! My aunt works in the music industry and, at the time, I was working for a flooring company. She had just moved house and I hooked her up with beautiful floors for the whole house. She was like “I’m going to pay you back for this.” So, when I was eighteen, my aunt rang me and said her friend required backing vocals for X Factor. So, I did TV about once a month for a year. Then I got another call to play for Matthew [Morrison] (the good-looking teacher from Glee) for a TV show called OK! TV and QVC. About a year later, I got a call from my aunt’s best friend’s agency asking if I was available for two days. I said “yes” and they were like, “OK, you’re going to be playing with Rihanna at the Brit Awards.
Bye.” I was one of seven other drummers. On the second day of rehearsal, Rihanna was there. We spoke briefly. She’s cool.
Gabriella Yosca: When did you start playing drums?
Mr. Hat*: Very late. Thirteen or fourteen.
Gabriella Yosca: Do you play with friends these days?
Mr. Hat*: I’m what you call a lazy musician. I only play when I have gigs. A lot of my friends are musicians so they have studios where we can give it a go. But, my dad used to be a bass session musician back in the early 70’s and he’s badass. I guess for me, I’m just mucking about on the keyboard and bass guitar in hopes to get to his level.
Gabriella Yosca: I assume you usually wear a hat when you play. Does it make you play better?
Mr. Hat*: No, I just have a specific hat that I wear. Usually, for a gig, you’re asked to wear all black, so I wear my black pork pie. I purposefully choose a pork pie, because it has a really small brim, which takes up less attention. You stick out too much if you are the only one wearing a hat.
Gabriella Yosca: And now a few quick questions: what is your most recently acquired hat?
Mr. Hat*: Probably my MAC painted fedora by Lucky Selectism which I acquired on the 17th of January.
Gabriella Yosca: What are your top five favorite hat brands?
Mr. Hat*: I’m going to be biased and start out with Lock & Co. Hatters followed by Worth & Worth from Orlando [Palacios]. He is amazing. My friend Marc Williamson of Flamekeepershatclub in Harlem. When I say J.J. Hat Center, I mean specifically their milliner, Ryan Wilde. She’s EPIC and I secretly have a little crush on her. There’s another brand but I haven’t met him yet and that’s Nick Fouquet from Venice Beach, CA. I definitely want to meet Nick. He’s a badass. I want one more now. Let’s go with Selentino.
Gabriella Yosca: Is there anything you’re currently obsessing over besides hats?
Mr. Hat*: Traveling would probably be my second obsession—something I’m growing to finance. I’m obsessed with food and music. I don’t have a TV, so I listen to music when I come home from work. However I always find time to watch cartoons. I’m a big kid.
Gabriella Yosca: What type of music?
Mr. Hat*: Predominantly jazz, 70’s disco, soul and old school R&B. My father is the reason I listen to that kind of good music.
Gabriella Yosca: And finally, after our hour-long conversation, what kind of hat would you recommend for me?
Mr. Hat*: A nice wide brim fur felt fedora in burgundy or a rich green.
Gabriella Yosca: If I find one, I’ll send you a picture.
Mr. Hat*: Oh yes, most certainly! I’d like that. And be sure to hashtag #hatabouttown.
*I chose to refer to him as Mr. Hat, because this is a professional interview. However, during our time together, he was so personable that I had no choice but to call him La Touchè.
By: Gabriella Yosca