Standard Hat Works: A New Standard

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A Man of Many Hats: Standard Hat Works’ owner/operator Cameron Morris carries on the Standard tradition, making each custom hat using equipment which dates back to the 1800s.

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.

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A Texas Tradition: The Texas hatter made many of the hats worn by the cast of “Lonesome Dove”, including Robert Duvall & Tommy Lee Jones. The “Lonesome Dove” epic is widely acclaimed as one of the best westerns of all time.

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.

A Higher Standard: In addition to making hats for a large number of country artists, the brand has been regaining traction beyond the country scene. Notably, Morris recently handcrafted a hat for Domangue (pictured) who’s genre-bending “Fistful of Dollars” is making waves internationally.

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.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMwnhaF81zw&w=560&h=315]

To learn more about Standard Hat Works visit www.standardhatworks.com


Interview by AlannahMichelle

Article by Preux: PreuxVasCouture@gmail.com

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