Hat Works by Paul

fedoraDo you wear a hat anymore? It used to be a huge fashion statement and very stylish. Men would tip their hats in the presence of a lady, and remove it once he is inside a home or business. Today the generations above and below mine wear hats. They are not the typical fedora styles that once were, mostly just baseball caps with a multitude of different designs adorning them. The tip of the hat in a lady’s presence has long gone away, and the removal of the hat while inside a home or business is the same as asking them to remove their shirt. Times change, we all know that, but sometimes there is a very small jewel of a business that continues to operate the same way that they have since the beginning. It is those establishments that keep nostalgia alive and styles of yesteryear alive and beating. In San Francisco there is a little hole in the wall business named “Hat Works by Paul”. Who is paul?

Paul's Hat Works's new owners (l to r): Abbie Dwelle, Olivia Griffin, Wendy Hawkins, and Kirsten Hove

I would like to introduce you to Paul, Pual, Paul, and Paul. Also know as (left to right:) Abbie Dwelle, Olivia Griffin, Wendy Hawkins, and Kirsten Hove.

They are the Second owners of Hat Works by Paul.

The Four Pauls

On their website: www.HatWorksbyPaul.com/ It reads:

“In a time where traditions have disintegrated, where people avoid eye contact on the streets and where heads remain barren and cold, four women have set out on an adventure to revive tradition, to unify the people, and to “Bring the Hat Back.”

Paul's Hat Works by denislpaul.

Traditions…so hard to remember…jump in your time machine and emerge in 1910. A man did not leave his house without his pocket watch, handkerchief, and hat. He would tip his hat to strangers passing the other way. He would remove his hat in the presence of ladies, while in a building, or before someone of important stature. These particular traditions continued through the 1920s, 30’s, 40’s, and even the 1950’s. Then came the enemy: hair. Times grew tough, people rebelled, and hair became a focal point. Goodbye to the hat. In the 1970’s the hair grew even longer, the hat was still in hiding. The 80’s saw the same problem, and we won’t even discuss the 90’s.

However, with the new millennium, the old will come creeping back and tradition will be sought after. “We’ve Got Elegance, if we ain’t got elegance we can never ever carry, it off.” In order to trace back to the time where elegance started, we must look to our forefathers, mentors, and creators of class, style, and the quality of the craft.

One gentleman who comes to mind is Napoleon Marquez. A Peruvian who grew up around the South American, particularly Ecuadorian, tradition of weaving panama straw hats he came up to San Francisco, California, after World War I, to start his own panama hat business. He called his little shop “Paul’s Hat Works,” and from 1918 to 1955, he ran the business successfully, and satisfied the needs of gentlemen nationally and internationally. He passed the legacy to his godson Kelly Bowling, who ran it with his wife Stephanie for many more years.

The third generation to own Paul’s Hat Works was Michael Harris and his wife Judy, he was one of several apprentices to Kelly, but was the worthiest pick to continue on in the tradition of making hats. Michael became the owner in 1980, but 28 years later, things were slowing down, and he was ready retire after a long career, and finish painting the coasts of California, something he set out to do before apprenticing to be a hatter. For a few years Michael kept his eyes and ears open for any hint of a successor, someone to teach and pass on this 91 year old legacy. But his searching was to no avail. On December 28th, 2008, Michael did an interview that came out in a local newspaper explaining his plight, and lamenting the lack of knights in shining armor in this day and age.

Little did he know that no less than three days later, on January 1st, 2009, someone would walk in his door that would change everything. Instead of a knight on a white horse, a lone cowgirl dropped by the shop around 12 noon. With a black leather skirt, a jacket with fringe, and a shiny tiny blue cowboy hat perched on top of her curly blonde wig, this young lady had a conversation with Mr. Michael Harris that changed everything. Why, she knew three young ladies who would be just the ticket for this kind of an undertaking. These three ladies she knew were her housemates, good friends, and partners already in a production company.

The first one she thought about was Kirsten, a young lady who had been making and designing cloth hats and caps, for everyday and for theatrics, for several years. The second aficionado would be Abbie, a petite lady who likes to build and craft, and who could do wonders with a space like this. Last, but not least, Wendy would have to be involved. Already a co-owner of a local business for several years, Wendy would be necessary to cook the books, plan the intricate schedule, and bring some passion to the action.

The very next day she brought the aforementioned ladies to the Hat Works, where they got the full tour of the place, top to bottom, examined the treasures tucked away in cabinets and drawers, and talked more to Michael Harris. As the ladies walked through the building, they each started day dreaming and fantasizing about what it could be if they were the owners.

Olivia herself fantasized about creating a new and improved inside and outside store front area including an upholstered bench for sitting, a record player and old radio for listening, serving coffee, and tea to customers for drinking, and lovely books on a table for reading.

Kirsten wondered about adorning hats in new fashions with creative trims inspired by the seasons. She could see a sewing and crafts workspace that could be open for use by seamstresses and craftspeople at monthly sewing workshops.

Abbie wondered if there were lovely hardwood floors under the carpet, and if she could track down antique light fixtures and furniture to install in the shop. She dreamed about turning the basement into crafts and painting, building workshop where she could implement the many art and set building projects has.

Wendy, meanwhile, was lusting after profit projections, intricate scheduling, and hidden treasures to be found in the nooks and crannies of the basement. She thought about the people in the community that could be brought in to be a part of the shop in any way, maybe in a big garden that could be planted.

All four ladies talked and shared their dreams and passions, and the logistics of owning a business. After six months of talking and negotiating, contracts were signed and the shop had four new lady keepers. However, in order to make everyone’s dreams come true, a lot of hard work, planning, and resources were needed. So the ladies turned to their supportive community of friends, family, neighbors, and patron for help.

Six weeks of painting, scraping, sanding, raking, hammering, nailing, feeding, organizing, and moving later, Paul’s Hat Works was transformed into a new place full of potential, still keeping its quality of old traditions and beautiful relics. The new Paul’s Hat Works transcends simple monetary purposes and now is not only a hat shop, but a space that involves all sorts of activities and all sorts of people.

But what it still comes down to, is the hats.

Michael Harris proceeded to train and teach the ladies how to make hats, the lessons interspersed between tangents of oral history of hats and hat makers. The hats he has always made, and that will be continued to be made, are classic, quality, hand crafted panama straw and beaver felt hats. He is very well known for straw hats, as they are quite the phenomenon, made possible only by the skilled weavers in the families of people native to Ecuador.

Paul's Hat Works San Francisco Panama HatsMost of these classic straw and felt hats are made and co-designed by customers themselves, after we have taken their needs, specs, and conformiteur into consideration. Aside from these classic beauties, the ladies will also be designing and creating original seasonal lines of hats. The Summer 2009 straw line is shaping up nicely; focusing on the theme of evolution, using greens, browns, and natural colors for feathers, ribbons, and other trims.

These hats will be featured at our shop, which opens Saturday, August 29th, 2009, so if you want to step back into time, and be part of the revival of the hat, do stop by for a cup of [instant] coffee. “

Paul's Hat Works

Handmade Panama Hats

They use this tool (above) to find the exact size hat you should have. Everyone’s head is shaped differently and with this tool, you can get the correct fit for your hat.

Handmade Panama Hats

Custom Panama Hats

I would love to have a fedora of my own. I may stop by there someday and buy a handmade fedora. pauls_hats51

The word fedora comes from the title of an 1882 play by Victorien Sardou, Fédora, written for Sarah Bernhardt. The play was first performed in the U.S. in 1889. Bernhardt played Princess Fédora, the heroine of the play, and she wore a hat similar to a fedora. The fedora became a female fashion which lasted into the early part of the twentieth century. When the fedora became a male fashion, it was popular in cities for its stylishness, ability to protect the wearer’s head from the wind and weather, and the fact that it could be rolled up when not in use. (Richard Davy, of New York, claimed to be its first male wearer.) Since the early part of the 20th century, many Haredi and other Orthodox Jews have worn black fedoras and continue to this day.

https://i2.wp.com/cartoonsnap.com/blogspot/images/HowtoDrawHatsMensClassicFedoraHat_D507/HowtoDrawHatsaManwearingahat.jpgThe hat is sometimes associated with Prohibition, Great Depression-era gangsters and the detectives who sought to bring them to justice. Popular stars in the 1950s such as Gene Kelly wore fedoras often in their movies, like Singin’ in the Rain. In Hollywood movies of the 1940s, characters often wore a fedora, particularly when playing private detectives, gangsters, or other “tough guy” roles. A trench coat was frequently part of the costume, a notable example being Humphrey Bogart’s character in Casablanca. Although the fedora became popular 30 years after the cowboy era (1865–1890), the use of fedoras is common in most TV/movie westerns. The fedora is widely recognized with the characters of The Blues Brothers, Freddy Krueger, Dick Tracy, and especially Indiana Jones. The fedora is also closely associated with film noir characters.

Like the bowler hat, the fedora was popular from the early 1920s to the mid 1960s on the east coast. In the late 1950s the hat began to lose favor on the west coast of the United States, which is known for its more casual clothing. The late 1950s switch from large lapels and ties to thin ones resulted in shorter-brimmed hats, and this likely played a role in the fedora eventually being deemed a non-essential item. Also playing a part were the shrinking automobiles of the mid-1950s, which often made it difficult to wear a hat while driving. By the early 1970s, the fedora was seen as a dead fashion, typically only worn by older and/or more traditional men. However the fedora has seen a revival in recent fashion seasons. In the early 1980s, pop stars Daniel Newton and Michael Jackson began using black and white fedoras which became one of their trademarks. Famous Dallas Cowboys head coach, Tom Landry, was also known for wearing one, and the English Novelist Terry Pratchett also wears one.


I really love to see companies being taken over by enthusiastic people trying to keep the old crafts alive. Whether it be a restaurant, grocery store, hamburger joint, bar, or retail business. I have seen at Target, Kohls, and other stores are starting to carry retro and vintage style hats, such as the fedora,  sporting caps and others. I am glad retro and vintage styles are returning. We need more simplicity in the world.

Thanks for reading,


Published in: on April 1, 2010 at 7:38 PM  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] 3. Hat Works By Paul (Click here to read this article) […]

  2. […] In the eleventh hour Michael sold Paul’s to four women. Smart, attractive and talented women. Hat making women. This was a big deal. There are almost no real men’s hat making shops left anywhere in the […]

  3. […] In the eleventh hour Michael sold Paul’s to four women. Smart, attractive and talented women. Hat making women. This was a big deal. There are almost no real men’s hat making shops left anywhere in the […]

  4. waoooo too nice what about sinamen hat work for ladies outing

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