The History of Borsalino Hats
The Borsalino company has been making superior quality hats in Alessandria, Italy since 1857. It remains one of the very few hatmakers in the world that handles every step of the hat-making process, from felting fur to shaping and finition.
Giuseppe Borsalino – nicknamed “u siur Pipen” (Master Joe) in the local dialect – was born in Alessandria in Italy in 1834. After starting as an errand boy then an apprentice in his home town, he finds a job at the Berteil hat factory in Rue du Temple, Paris, where he works for around seven years before becoming a qualified Master Hatter. A year after returning to Italy, Giuseppe opens his first workshop in a courtyard in Via Schiavina in Alessandria together with his brother, Lazzaro. It was the beginning of a story that was to achieve great success and immense satisfaction, becoming the stuff of legend.
Giuseppe understands that the time to make a decision about the company’s future has come; based on what he has learnt in England, the Master decides to import the machines which in Denton, Stockport, in the suburbs of Manchester, had revolutionised the hat-making industry. In 1897 the Master visits the Battersby hat-making factory in London and legend has it that “without being seen, he dips his handkerchief in a vat of “tar”, and takes back to Italy the English secret for making perfect bowler hats”.
Giuseppe Borsalino dies in 1900 and his son, Teresio, follows him at the helm of the Company, immediately proving that he is up to the task: the production of hats grows from 2,800 a day in 1901 to 5,500 in 1909, up to the record number of two million hats a year in the 1920s. That same year, the Company wins the Grand Prix at the Exposition Universelle de Paris and in 1905 becomes a joint-stock company. With Teresio at the helm, in 1911 the Company collaborates with Marcello Dudovich, leading to a turning point in the history of advertising billboards: over the next few years, Borsalino advertising photos are among the best of their time.
“In the past, we created generations of style …today we create the style of the new generations”
Today, Borsalino owns ten single-brand sales points in Italy and one in Paris; moreover, the brand is also sold in the most elegant boutiques and in the most prestigious department stores across the world: Berdgorf & Goodman, Barney’s, Sacks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Harrod’s, Selfridges, Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Bon Marché, Isetan, and Imaru to name but a few. The rich and famous as well as celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Leonardo Di Caprio, Denzel Washington, Justin Timberlake, Kate Moss, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Campbell, and John Malkovich are immortalized wearing the unique style of the living legend of the most prestigious brand of hats in the world.
The uniqueness of the Borsalino product lies in its production process: made of fine fur felt (rabbit or hare) it passes through around fifty production phases and it takes an average of seven weeks’ work to finish every hat. This long-established process has been passed down from generation to generation and its secret lies in the rigorous sequence of stages alternated with machines and hand-working stages which determine the quality and control of the finished product.