London Hatmaker Revives Traditions, Touts Transformative Power of Hats

By Jane Werrell

LONDON—Artist director of Tom Smarte Hats, Allon Zloof, says his hat-making is inspired by music and history.

“Colour combinations come to me while I’m listening to music,” he said.

The company is reviving traditional hat-making from the 1780s, using the same techniques.

Created by Thomas Smarte in 1786 in Southwest England, the fourth generation of Thomas Smartes moved to Luton in 1891, and the tradition was passed down to Zloof’s ancestors.

Hat
Tom Smarte makes hats using techniques passed down the generations. (Tom Smarte hats)

The only machinery used is a steam iron, as the heat is needed to create the shape. The blocks are hand-made.

Your headgear, Zloof says, is not just about your outer appearance.

He said in the past top hats used to signify class, with a taller hat making people seem more important, while bowler hats originally protected drivers of horse-drawn taxis who drove through low hanging trees; later adopted by city gents working in finance.

And from the Fedora, big brother to the trilby which has a smaller rim, to a flat cap—while hats don’t symbolise class and occupation today like they used to, your choice of hat can perhaps reveal more about you than you realise.

“You are who you are, and there’s just different elements to you, so it just brings it out more,” said Zloof.

So, if you’re feeling a bit introverted you can hide, or if you’re feeling bold you can go for a hat that brings out that mood.

“A hat, it sort of changes you on the outside world, but it also changes you on the inside as well,” he said.