I have been hearing about Optimo Hats in Chicago for years from acquaintances that I would describe as hard-core head-wear aficionados. Founded by Graham Thompson, who was trained by legendary Chicago hatter Johnny Tyus, Optimo produced arguably the finest headwear still made in the United States, if not the world. Not surprisingly, such wonderfully crafted pieces are not inexpensive. While the company's website doesn't actually list any prices for the various models on display, my understanding is that the fedoras start somewhere around $595.
So imagine my surprise when I dropped into one of my regular haunts and came across this beautiful dark brown felt fedora, made by Optimo for Wilkes Bashford out in San Francisco.
I have no idea how a brand new with tags fedora ended up way out here on the East Coast being sold in a little out-of-the-way hole-in-the-wall, but I was awestruck at first glance and decided it was too beautiful to just leave sitting there. As you can see below, there is just a bit of a smudge of dust towards the end of the crown, but aside from that, the fedora appears to be in pristine condition.
This hat looks very similar to the "Mitchum," a model on Optimo's website described as a "classic film noir" hat and presumably named for Hollywood icon Robert Mitchum, who starred in such classic noir fare as Out Of The Past. Described as having a wider brim (2 5/8 inches with a wide-bound edge) and higher crown, it is apparently ideal for the "solidly built man," which certainly describes Mitchum in his 1940s prime to a tee.
Unfortunately for me, at 7 3/8 inches, this hat is a bit too big for me. However, I will enjoy ogling this wonderful example of skilled American craftsmanship, before putting it up for sale on eBay so someone with a bigger head than mine can enjoy the experience of wearing an Optimo. If you're interested, you can view the auction here.
After all, the company isn't exaggerating when it says "Life better in a great hat."
P.S. Check out this short video on Graham Thompson and Optimo at
Will Boehlke's A Suitable Wardrobe here: