By Johnny Birdsong
I take my hat off to the man who knows how to wear a hat and wear it well.
No, we don’t live in the Mad Men era, and gone are the days of Humphrey Bogart and other stars of the big screen always in fashion form, that started with a hat. However, I recently found that the hat is alive and well at hatWRKS in Nashville.
I stumbled upon this treasure by accident, simply driving by. Once inside, I was amazed and intrigued to learn more from owner GiGi Gaskins.
Gigi was born in Hendersonville where her dad had a retail shop where she worked from age seventeen to forty-one. Years later, she decided: “If I don’t leave now, I’ll never leave.” While at the movies one day with this thought in mind, she by chance saw CoCo Before Chanel....where the legendary designer was making a hat. Inspired to do the same, Gigi’s journey began. She searched and found a class in Portland, Oregon that specialized in hat creation; and where she perfected her skills.
Now into her ninth year in business, Gigi says, “I thought I was just going to be opening a work room immediately after the course – then people started coming. Mostly men and mostly older men, looking for hats. With a background in retail, I dove into the hat industry. I flew out to Salt Lake City, Utah to meet a man who was one of the original ‘hatters.’ He had one of the original hat shops in the country. He taught people the craft of making hats because he built and sold the equipment and tools. He played a great part in helping new hatters come on board. Without him, I don’t know what people would have done. It’s very particular – it’s just hats...that’s all we sell. There has a been a resurgence even over the last eight or nine years – people are wearing hats. I don’t think it will ever go back to its previous prominence, where if you look in any historic photo, everyone had on a hat. Back in the day, there was a hat shop on every corner like JU’s Hatters – one of the
longtime local icons in Nashville until 1999. For years, men’s hats defined their status in society.”
There are only a handful of shapes in men’s hats. They vary from height of crown, width of brim and even degree of curl in brim. It’s either a top, derby, fedora, gus or cattlemen. When I asked what was the most popular today, it was undoubtedly the fedora, with cattlemen close behind.
There are different qualities of hats. “A wool hat is the cheapest – in fact, you can find them everywhere, very cheap and they have a look and a place,” explains Gigi. “We have nice wool hats, but it’s not going to hold up like a rabbit fur or beaver fur hat. With the rabbit fur hats – not only do they look better, they are just better quality. It’s the first thing people are going to see.”
According to Gigi, there is a lot of work that goes into a fine hat. “All of our in-house made hats come with the bodies already felted and we finish and shape using only the finest beaver fur. We make works of art that don’t look like hats off the shelf.”
At hatWRKS, you’ll find anywhere between 5,000-10,000 selections, all in the top brands like Stetson (THE name in hats), Bailey, Goorin, Brixton and Mayser (the nicest in Panama Hats), to choose from.
Gigi will show hats based on function and what it’s intended for. “We have to find YOUR style and fit. Not every style fits every head,” says Gigi. “Forget what hat looks good on someone else. Find the hat that looks good on YOU.”
This is one of the best hat shops in the world. With endless brands, sizes, colors and style selections. So, be it your new fedora, derby, bowler, gambler, homburg, cattleman, western or panama, hatWRKS is your go-to hat shop.
The hat is the first thing someone is going to see in any ensemble. So, what statement do you want to make?