“Never try to wear a hat that has more character than you do.”
– Lance Morrow, American writer and essayist
I do believe some hats possess ‘character’. For example, the Stetson Stratoliner is the real deal… a “King of Kings” Classic. Wearing one can make the music stop when entering a room, swallowing the air from the lungs of people in the form of involuntary gasps.
This hat is a real force of nature; a sublime shape shifter; the Americana dream condensed into a ridiculously-stylish form, placed on top of the head like a totem emitting signals of a pioneering spirit of those who dreamt of bigger things.
I love and cherish wearing a Stratoliner: slightly angled, perfectly balanced… just so. The ’Strat’ amplifies my character, adds a little edge and gives me a ‘look’ that’s as sharp as an old-school cut-throat razor.
The Stratoliner design is one of the finest modern felt fedoras I have placed on my head. The felt is not thick and hard but beautifully soft and firm, as a fur felt should be.
I prefer to wear it with an ‘open crown’ but can be creased and styled like the old days if you’d prefer. They are very hard to track down now but originals are still out there.
It’s a favourite of Johnny Depp, who has taken the style a tad further and gets some made by Graham Thompson at Optimo in Chicago.
Like many things I love, the story of the Stetson Stratoliner originates in a bygone era – a time when men wore hats and limitations were there to be extended – that paved the way for the modern world we live in today. In this particular case, the hat took its name from Boeing’s 307 Stratoliner, which entered into the US airline folklore in 1940.
This aircraft was remarkable, with its ‘over-sized’ appearance, and ushered in a whole new era in avionics. It was the first in-service pressurized airplane, with added air-conditioning and heating, preceding high-altitude passenger jet airliners that fly above the weather and turbulence, we all take for granted today.
When American business magnate and the world’s ‘richest man, Howard Hughes, had a specially modified Stratoliner built just for himself – outfitted with luxury interior and nicknamed ‘The Flying Penthouse’ – Stetson’s keen eye for a marketing opportunity jumped at the chance to adopt the name for its latest line in fedoras. Hence the Stratoliner Badge’ included with every purchase.
While the Boeing 307 is now just a footnote in aviation history, its namesake in the business of millinery is still standing strong… 80 years young, a little creased perhaps but still unbroken.