Indy’s Hat Lives on Beyond Borsalino

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The iconic Italian hat maker Borsalino has declared bankruptcy with £16m owed to creditors. Some sources including the Daily Telegraph have suggested that the firm was behind the iconic Indiana Jones fedora but this was actually Herbert Johnson in London. The military hatter continues unabated and the original Indy hat the “Poet” is still available from retailer Swaine Adeney Brigg that confirms Johnson’s authenticity with: ‘Finest quality bespoke headwear completely handcrafted to order. Most renowned for our oldest hat style ‘The Poet’ which was famously worn by Indiana Jones in the original trilogy.”

Nevertheless Borsalino has still topped the outfits of such greats as Humphrey Bogart, Johnny Depp and Pharrell Williams. The company has 130 employees who make 150,000 hats a year and leading figures have said this will continue with measures to preserve the iconic brand.

A Tough Crown

“Poet” fedora by Herbert Johnson

The Indiana Jones equipment resource Indy Gear offers a detailed insight into the design of the legendary hat. “There have always been conflicting reports as to the exact model chosen to become the Indiana Jones fedora,” it says.  “[Costume designer] Deborah Nadoolman is quoted as saying, ‘I saw a hat with a very wide brim and the crown was a little bit too high. It was their Australian model and with a couple of fittings. We got the hat right for Harrison. Richard Swales, who was manager at Herbert Johnson and fitted Ford for the original Raiders fedora has stated adamantly in the past that it was the ‘Poet’ model which was chosen in the end and has since been touted as the actual fedora worn by Harrison Ford in the films, although Herbert Johnson has never sold them under the official Indiana Jones license.”

“The Poet had been a part of the Herbert Johnson line-up for some time and remains so to this day. At the core of the Poet was a high quality rabbit felt from Cury, a hat factory out of Brazil. Cury would ship raw felt bodies to Herbert Johnson where they would then go through the precise, old world method of creating a finely crafted top shelf fedora.”

A thriving market?

Sadly Borsalino’s struggle represents the demise of high-end headwear, although the Telegraph reports that it returned to profits two years ago but simply couldn’t sustain its debts. Nevertheless the Indiana Jones hat represents a key player in the revival of the hat and an almost unobtainable piece for many fans. “Alas, the secret of the fedora’s identity was not so easily given up to the public and all of the remaining costumes were either locked away in the LucasFilm Archives or in the possession of Bermans and Nathans costumers,” says Indy Gear.

It is no surprise then that so many replicas exist on the market with few matching the exact shape of the original – even Johnson got rid of the original block after the release of Raiders of the Lost Ark which has created a heritage of Indy hats styled to each film. A dedicated fan had his own crusade to produce the Adventurebilt fedora that was so accurate it was used when Harrison Ford reprised his role in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.


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