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The World's Best Hats

A Search for the World's Greatest Hatmaker Ends in Italy
Harry Rosenholtz
From the Print Edition:
James Woods, May/Jun 97

(continued from page 2)

When selected for production, the felts are carefully sanded by hand to create the perfect finish. Several artisans diligently work the felt, both inside and out, until the hat is of a perfect softness and smoothness. About 30 percent of the weight of the hat will be sanded off. For hats designed to have a longer nap, machines using shark skin are employed. It is most important that the longer hairs are raised so that they lay in one direction.

Shaping the hat is done using wooden blocks and old steam presses. Today, as always, Cervo makes most of its styles with a certain intent: that the retailer or the client himself shape the hat by hand. Therefore, Cervo ships many of its hats with an "open" crown, meaning the crown has a rounded form that is in perfect dimension for each style. Ultimately, the hats are so fine that they can be shaped by merely pinching the crown. However, when Cervo does pre-block a hat, it uses antique wooden blocks for the crown and a separate one for the brim. Each size must have its own set of blocks, so the factory is nearly overrun by the numerous wooden forms hanging from ceilings and shelves.

Finally, the hats are trimmed by hand, using the finest leathers for sweatbands and grosgrain ribbons for hatbands. Today, hats are often finished with more casual dress in mind, and Cervo has created marvelous new treatments such as hand-detailing of the felt, or the replacement of the hatband with circular stitching or trapunto around the brim. Even the satin linings are stitched in rather than glued--one last refusal to compromise quality in the name of efficiency.

Eden is justifiably proud of his small factory and its great traditions. He no longer solicits new clients, nor exhibits at any of the famous European fashion shows. He has the luxury of selecting his clients carefully, and often refuses to supply customers who do not show an appreciation for his art. "I am 82 years old," he said last year. "I have spent my life making hats, and every one is precious to me."

A finished hat by Cappellificio Cervo, retailing for $200 to $385, is like no other made today. Its felt is so light and soft that it's a sensual pleasure just to hold. The color is authentic, rich, deep and perfect. The fit is like no other; the level of comfort is such that the hat feels as though it was made for your head alone.

I have been truly fortunate to have discovered this great factory and the talented family who run it. Luckily, Eden's son, Costanzo, and his grandchildren are determined to continue the legacy. This year, Cervo will celebrate its centennial anniversary. Its most remarkable achievement is its stubborn unwillingness to compromise or to modernize.

Harry Rosenholtz is the owner of Worth & Worth, a men's hat and accessories store in New York City. He often writes about men's fashion, jazz and ice hockey. Where to Find Hats By Cappellificio Cervo:

France

Gelot/Hermes
15 rue du Faubourg Ste. Honoré 75008 Paris
Phone: 33 (1) 44 71 3161

Italy


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