The Extensive History of
Beaver Hats

Fashion Icon and Symbol of Trade

A Deep-Dive into the Impact of Beaver Hats on Early European Fashion and the Fur Trade

The History of Beaver HatsThe beaver top hat, spanning from the late 16th to mid-19th centuries, made a significant impression on men’s fashion throughout Europe. Renowned for their high value, beaver top hats were often cherished family possessions, handed down from father to son spanning generations. These hats spoke volumes about an individual’s social status and occupation, with the design playing a significant role.

Although they were crafted from a variety of fur felt, the highest quality and most popular felt was made from beaver. This preference for beaver fur felt played a crucial role in shaping the fur trade industry and left a lasting impact on the fashion world.

The Birth of The Fur Trade

The reign of King Charles I of England (1625–1642) witnessed high demand for beaver top hats, spurred by the evolving fashion trends across Europe. By the late 17th century, beavers had become nearly extinct in Europe due to this skyrocketing demand. However, the European hat industry found salvation in North America, which provided an alternate source of supply, thus leading to the birth of the fur trade.

The tremendous demand for these hats persisted through the 18th and early 19th centuries, leading to an explosive growth in the fur trade. The establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670 was primarily driven by the quest for raw materials, specifically beaver fur. In its early days, the company even enticed influential men in London with complimentary beaver hats valued at £34 to stimulate investment in the company.

The historical significance of the beaver, as a crucial commodity in the early history of the Company, is evident. This connection between their early history and HBC’s current status as an international world-class retailer highlights the profound influence the pursuit of fashion had on the company’s business trajectory.

The Art of Beaver Hat Production

Initially, the epicentre of the European hat-making industry was France. However, with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, more than 10,000 hatters migrated to England, causing the French hat-making industry to collapse and England to emerge as the new hub of production.

The production of the actual beaver hats required a process called felting. Beaver fur has tiny barbs on the ends which, when pressed, interlock to form a solid fabric called ‘felt.’ This water-resistant quality of beaver hats, along with their wide brims, made them an ideal choice for the rainy English climate, especially before the invention of the umbrella.

Beaver hats were also surrounded by superstitions. Some believed that wearing a beaver hat enhanced intelligence and memory if the oil from the fur was rubbed into one’s hair. It was even rumored that a deaf person could regain their hearing by wearing a beaver hat.

Despite their popularity, the fashion for beaver felt hats began to wane in the mid-19th century when silk was discovered to be a less expensive yet equally stylish alternative. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, played a significant role in popularizing silk hats in the 1840s.

Tthe beaver top hat, beyond its aesthetic appeal, served as a powerful symbol of wealth, social standing, and the burgeoning fur trade, leaving an indelible imprint on early European fashion and trade.

Custom Hand Made Beaver Fur Felt Hats

Beaver Fur Felt for Custom Handmade Hats

Our Beaver Hats are made from high-quality felted beaver fur.

Beaver fur felt is a long-lasting, dense and nearly waterproof material made from a blend of beaver and/or rabbit/hare fur with felt. It is known for its exceptional durability, lasting 5-10 times longer than wool-felt. A high-quality hat made from Beaver and Beaver blend fur-felt can be easily reshaped multiple times using just a steam iron and some patience. This material is highly regarded for its ability to create top-notch hats.

Our Beaver Fur Felt

Ideally, a higher concentration of beaver fur should be indicated by a higher X factor. However, the hat-making industry lacks a standardized system, leading to confusion. Many hat sellers do not disclose the composition of their fur-felt, and some even misleadingly market straw hats as 100X. As a general rule, if a hat maker simply refers to their hat bodies as fur-felt, it is likely made from rabbit or hare fur.

We offer three quality beaver blends for our custom hats:

  • 5X blend consists of approximately 5% beaver combined with rabbit and felt.
  • 20X blend contains 50% beaver combined with rabbit and felt.
  • 100X is made from pure 100% beaver fur-felt.

For a hat that can withstand any weather conditions, a pure beaver cowboy hat is unbeatable. It is lightweight, rigid, and visually stunning, capable of repelling anything that comes its way. And remember, if you desire a water-resistant material, consider that beavers inhabit water while rabbits reside in the dirt.