Cover up with a custom-made hat
In Texas, you can never go wrong with a good cowboy hat. But when’s the last time you walked into a store to have a hat made just for you? A few places in the area will handcraft you a pair of boots and set you back a pretty penny while they’re at it. But a hat?
As a sophomore at Texas Christian University, Jimmy Pierce walked into a hat store and asked if they needed help. “One guy asked me if I knew anything about computers, and then another guy handed me an open crown and flat-brim hat and said, ‘Here, shape it.’ I guess I did all right,” Jimmy says, “because I ended up working there off and on for the next six years.”
Jimmy believes that to make a good hat takes more than the skills to shape it well. It also takes an eye for faces, proportions, and colors. Most of Jimmy’s hats are made to order. “I meet with the person,” he says, “talk to them a little while, find out what their normal style is.” Jimmy asks what clothes they’d typically wear with the hat and what colors they prefer. “I look at their lifestyle and what’s going to fit it. Then I bring out my color samples, my ribbon samples, and the few hats I’ve made up to get proportions from.”
Most manufactured hats are made out of rabbit felt, but Jimmy prefers beaver felt. “Beaver felt is the most durable,” he says. “It makes for the tightest felt, it’s the most waterproof. It’s the softest to the touch.” Hats can also be made out of wool, but Jimmy explains, “Factory-manufactured hats are so cheap there’s no point in me even trying to make a wool hat.”
Jimmy will make a lower quality hat if that’s what a client wants, but for $100 to $200 more, the client can upgrade the quality. And clients usually do. Jimmy’s rabbit felt hats are slightly more expensive than factory-made hats. “But it’s being specifically made for you. It’s fit to your head, the whole bit,” he says. Jimmy also provides a wider range of color choices than clients find in typical store inventories.
If the rabbit felt hats are a little more expensive, it’s surprising to learn Jimmy’s beaver felt hats can be purchased from him cheaper than from a store. “I do a little more work on the beaver hat,” Jimmy explains, “but not that much.” Manufacturers triple the cost of materials to determine a price point, but Jimmy does not.
Jimmy doesn’t make only cowboy hats. He also makes bowler hats and fedoras. “I even made a tri-corn admiral hat once!” he says. Jimmy will make whatever the customer wants, and he’ll make it to fit. “Most of the hats people are wearing now don’t fit right,” Jimmy says. “I have a real problem with that. A hat’s the first thing anybody sees, so it really needs to fit right. I can do that.”
Contact Jimmy at Pierce_Designs@yahoo.com or call 512-565-1805. Jimmy’s hats can also be found at The Co-op in Georgetown and at The Hatbox in Austin.