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What are straw hats made of?
Ninety-nine percent (99%) of the straw hats we manufacture are actually hand-woven using a man made fiber. The fiber is a twisted paper product that is coated with a plastic resin. The completed fiber is called "yarn." If the yarn is made in Japan, it is called Shantung. If it is made in China, it is generally referred to as "Toyo." Either way, the resin coated paper yarn is delivered to the weaving areas in Mainland China, where it is hand-woven into the bodies we use to make the straw hats you find in your local store.
The other 1% of the hand-woven straw hats we make are made of natural Toquillo straw fiber woven in the Monticristi and Cuenca regions of Ecuador. These are referred to as "Panama" hats.
Contrary to what you may see in the marketplace, there is no such thing as a "Shantung Panama." Our hats are hand-woven in China using either Shantung or Toyo yarn (manmade) or hand-woven in Ecuador using Toquillo straw (natural fiber).
Historically, X markings were only used in felt hats, and essentially indicated a manufacturer's opinion of the blend of fur used in forming the hat bodies. The more wild fur is included in the fur blend used to make the body, the higher the X marking for that hat. Generally speaking 2X was the lowest and 100X was the highest.
Since there is no industry standard for X quality markings, the assignment of X markings is very subjective. Today X markings are a marketing gimmick. You can't compare a Milano Hat with any other hat on the basis of the X mark alone.
At Milano Hat Company, we consider the type and width of the fiber, as well as the trim package, in assigning our straw hat X markings. On our felt hats, our X markings are determined by the various fur blends we use to make the raw body and also the trim packaged used to finish the hat.
At Milano Hat Company, we make hats of all qualities. Currently, our straw hats range from 8X to 5000X and our felt hats range from 2X to 500X
First of all, there are several kinds of felt hats, fur felt, wool felt and blends of both. At Milano Hat Company, we make all of these types of felt hats. Our felt bodies are made to our specifications using various blends of tame and wild hare, tame rabbit and beaver fur as well as wool blends.
Contrary to popular belief, our many years of experience tells us that the best fur felt hats are made from a blend of wild hare, wild rabbit and tame rabbit furs. "Best" in the sense that a hat holds its shape and finishes well.
A properly felted and finished fur felt hat DOES NOT need to be excessively stiff. If you are used to a particular quality of hat and are moving up to a better hat, you will find that the hat, while not as stiff as what you may be used to, will have a better finish and, if properly maintained, will hold it's shape for years.
Since we do not set retail prices, we can only say that in our experience, the straw hats we make range in retail price from $35.00 to as much as $600.00 or more. The narrower the fiber and better the trim, the more expensive the hat. The felt hats we make range in price from $60.00 to $1,000.00 or more. Felt hat prices are influenced by the fur blend, trim and color. Pastel (that is, light colored) hats are more expensive then black hats of the same quality because we have to use better fur to get a uniform finish and color.
Well, nothing replaces a custom fitting by your local Milano Hat Company dealer. He or she will not only help you find the right size, but will also help you select the correct color, crown height, crown, brim width and flange to fit the shape of your face and body type.
You can figure your hat size by measuring around your head with a cloth tape measure. Just place the tape around your head, making sure it is about an inch or so above your eyebrows and goes around your head where a hat would settle. Take the measurement in inches to the 1/8th of an inch and convert it to your head size using the chart below.
The first step in turning a hat body into a hat is "blocking." During this process, the hat body is blocked to a specific size. You may have found that when buying boots or shoes, you wear different sizes in different brands, or the same size and style boot made by one company fits different from a boot made by another company. Similarly, you may find that a size 7 hat from another manufacturer will fit differently than a hat of the same size from Milano Hat Company, Inc. These variations are caused by differences in manufacturing methods and equipment.
The crown is that part of the hat that goes over your head. The crown of a hat is typically creased to a particular shape when it is made. Years ago most hats were delivered to the retailer with an "open" (uncreased) crown, thereby permitting the retail hat salesman the opportunity to shape the hat to his customer's liking. Over the years, changes in the industry and the demands of production have resulted in today's practice of creasing hats as part of the production process.
Milano Hat Company offers several different crown shapes. The most popular is the "cattleman" crease that most people wear. We offer three different crown heights in our cattleman shape from the tallest, called the "Long Cattleman," to the mid-sized crown, called "Ridgetop," to the low-crowned "Cowboy." Aside from our cattleman shapes we also offer other popular creases.
The flange is the particular shape given to the brim. Like the crown, there are several variations of a common brim shape that are currently popular. For example, our Roper flange is generally flat, with approximately one inch of the front 1/3 of the brim edge turned up slightly and the front of the brim squared off. Our Roughstock flange is a more severe Roper flange. That is, 2 inches or more of the brim edge is turned up, and again, the front is squared off. The Roughstock flange will also typically have the front of the brim dipped down lower than a Roper flange.
Similarly, there are many flanges that are referred to generally as a Rancher. Generally, a Rancher flange features a gentle roll to the brim toward the front of the hat. On a Rancher flange, the front edge of the brim is rounded, not squared off.
The term "self band" refers to a trim (ie. outside) band that is made from the same material as the rest of the hat. We have several straw self bands, in different constructions, made of the same Shantung yarn used to weave the body. We also feature self bands on most of our felt hats. These bands are made from fur felt hat bodies that are finished and then cut into strips to be used as bands.