Standard Hat Works is a little hat shop with a legendary tradition. The resume is legit. Celebrities known to have worn the SHW brand range from George Strait & Garth Brooks to David Letterman & Oprah. Luke Perry wore a Standard in “Eight Seconds.” The hat shop once made lids for the crew of Air Force One, Guns & Roses & the cast of Lonesome Dove. The list goes on. We’re talking a hatter with one hell of a reputation.
The story of Standard is that of an american dream realized & kept alive for generations. Here’s a quick rundown: The shop was founded in 1909 by William Gross, a man with a reputation in the streets of New York City for selling the hats off his head. With a clear vision, Gross cut out & set up shop in the heart of Texas. Upon arrival he took up with Bill Martin (uncle of famed comedian Steve Martin), who partnered in the business & its operation before taking it over shortly after WWII. Martin continued to build the Standard name through the “Urban Cowboy” craze of the 80s. After 70+ years of hard work, the Standard Hat Works brand had not only hatted generations of cowboys, ranchers & businessmen alike, but it had also become an enduring part of pop culture. The little hat shop in Texas had made a big name for itself.
Then in 1993, the business was dealt a devastating blow when a fire claimed much of the operation & its inventory, including the original hat making equipment that the business (& the signature SHW process) was built on. Though Standard Hat Works had developed a reputation for quality on a global scale, at its core it was still just a small operation that made each & every single hat by hand, one step at a time. With no tools, equipment or facility, SHW lost its ability to do the only thing it had ever done: make hats. Crippled by the loss, the company was forced to close its doors. After more than 80 years in business & a meteoric rise to the top of its class, Standard Hat Works was out of the game.
The next two decades saw the company bought, sold, & relocated to a smaller facility (about a mile from its original location) in an attempt to recapture its former glory. Extensive time & energy was put into replacing the equipment lost in the fire, much of which dated back to the 1800s (the equipment was in used-condition when Gross originally purchased it for the shop in 1909). The company eventually managed to get back up & running, though slow production curves met with an influx of orders brought it heel shortly thereafter. Standard had taken one on the chin & it clearly wasn’t going down without a fight. Still, after two decades of getting back to the basics, it seemed readily apparent that the shop’s best days were behind it.
Enter Cameron Morris, Standard Hat Works’ current owner & operator. Morris, a native of the area, went out on a limb & purchased the unavailing business nearly 3 years ago. “I just wanted to reestablish it as one of the premier custom hat shops, not just in Texas, but the entire country.” & he’s been been doing just that. The last few years have seen a complete turn around in the shop & a steep increase in clientele, this in addition to a resurgence in orders among artists & celebrities.
While the growth in sales are keeping Standard’s outfit on its toes, Morris plans to keep the company small. “You get to know these people & you kind of lose that touch if [the business] gets too big.” Coming into the business when he did, Morris spent a lot of time trying to polish relationships that had been tarnished over the course of the past 2 decades, & he understands the importance of satisfied customers in a small trade like his. “We are going to take care of you.”
The goal is simple: “I want to make the best handcrafted felt hats there are, & I want to be known for great customer service.” So as to not mislead his customers, he clarifies his intentions for the future of the shop: “Not necessarily the biggest, but the best.” When asked if there’s anything else he’d like to add before parting, the Texan doesn’t mince words: “We’ve been here 107 years, & we’ll be here another 107 years if I have anything to do with it.” Here’s to a new Standard.
Watch the video below to get an inside look at the Standard Hat Works tradition.
To learn more about Standard Hat Works visit www.standardhatworks.com
Interview by AlannahMichelle
Article by Preux: PreuxVasCouture@gmail.com