HUNTSVILLE, Alabama (AP) – Reginald Corbitt has a big head. Literally. A size eight skull. If we are talking about small-medium-large increments, this is an extra-large double. Growing up in Huntsville, Corbitt struggled to find many hats in his size.
Even so, the hats became a signature for him. As far as, while attending Lee High School, some called him “Reggie, the one with the hats.” (There were two Reggies in their circle.) After Corbitt’s family moved to Oklahoma, it was not uncommon for people there to know him as “The Hat Dude.”
âHats have always been something I could add as an extra element to my outfit and my style,â says Corbitt. âAnd that’s something that stood out the most. The first thing people would notice was the hat I was wearing.
When he could find more hats in his size – and we’re talking fedora, bowler, pigpie type hats – they often weren’t available in the colors he wanted. The rest of Corbitt has grown to match his big head. At 6 foot two inches and fat, he worked in physical security, investigation and personal protection.
While residing in Washington DC and still wasn’t quite happy with the hat options for his size, he decided to learn how to make hats. An acquaintance put Corbitt in touch with a local milliner whose hat shop had recently closed. Over the course of a few face-to-face sessions, this milliner showed him the basics. Corbitt took it from there, making fedoras and other hats in his home in his spare time. He continued to learn the trade on his own, through experience and by watching YouTube tutorials.
After the first one, Corbitt just made hats for himself. He started wearing these hats when he went out and people, friends and strangers alike, often complimented him on them. âPeople were literally buying them right out of my head,â says Corbitt. He started selling more hats to friends and family through social media, and kept several for himself as well. Back in Huntsville, he dedicated a wall of his house to his hats, including about 30 of his own creation. He set up a workshop in his basement.
Today, about four and a half years after he began making hats, Corbitt owns and operates Nathan Mason Hats, a business named in honor of his sons. He’s gone full-time, making bespoke hats that customers order from his website, nathanmasonhats.com, and from a brick-and-mortar store on the first floor of the local Parkway Place mall.
At first, Parkway Place was going to be a short-term pop-up. âBut then the response in Huntsville was so good that we decided to stay,â Corbitt said. “People said they were glad they didn’t have to go to Nashville or Atlanta for hats anymore.” Nathan Mason Hats is staying at Parkway Place until January – hello, vacation shoppers – and after that Corbitt wants to open a date store somewhere in the area. The current store hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Interest in Nathan Mason hats increased when famous Athens-based record producer / musician Kelvin Wooten shared photos on social media of some cool hats Corbitt had made for him, including a number military green with a quail feather nestled in the copper of the hat. – colored band.
âA hat can say a lot about who you are, from a personality standpoint,â says Wooten. “And if I put this hat on with this outfit, it totally changes the way I walk, my mood, everything.” Wooten is drawn to fedoras in general, especially if he’s playing a jazz concert. If he’s hip-hop, he might go for a trucker cap or something more casual like that. Wooten says he loves the hats Corbitt makes because “he builds them from scratch.” When Wooten was growing up, both of his grandfathers frequently wore hats, which added to the appeal for him now.
Hats were also a thing in Corbitt’s family. A framed photo of his great-grandfather wearing a hat adorns one of the walls of the Nathan Mason Hats store. And the rhythm continues. Another framed photo on this same wall in the shop shows Corbitt’s young son wearing a hat. The hats on display at Nathan Mason run the gamut of looks, from jazzy to rockstar, hipster and foxy. For men and women. âHats are a lot like music, something that everyone loves and can relate to,â says Corbitt. âI get all ages and all demographic groups that come here. “
Some of the most requested colors for Nathan Mason hats include “silver belly”, camel, black, and pecan. Fedoras and other center pleats (think vintage gangster look) as well as styles called âcattleman cruiserâ and âthe playerâ sell well. They are available in a variety of edge widths. If a client is not sure which look is right for them, Corbitt will ask them how they plan to style the hat, what color they feel, etc. , ‘Hey, this is a good look for you. Let’s try this. This color works for you. A hat can be further personalized with a hat band, which is sewn in the store, and / or feathers and even snakeskin detailing.
To achieve the perfect fit, Corbitt measures the heads of in-store customers using a halo-shaped device that resembles a sci-fi brain controller. It takes them about two or three days to make a hat, but if there are 20 in the queue, the turnaround time can be around four or six weeks. Making a hat begins with steaming an unshaped blank, which loosens the fibers and allows Corbitt to stretch the hat to a custom fit, then mold it into a hat block (which fits available in different heights, sizes and straps) to shape to the desired shape. After that, it takes about 24-48 hours for a hat to dry.
Personalized Nathan Mason hats start at $ 395 for – animal lover, look away – 100 percent rabbit fur felt. The cost goes up to $ 525 for a 50/50 mix of beaver fur and rabbit fur, and Corbitt says these hats can last around 50 years with proper care. The “Maybach of the hats” is however made of 100% beaver fur, velvety and resistant. These cost $ 750 a pop. Corbitt can also make a personalized Panama straw hat, a must-have for the warmer months, for $ 275. âMost of my orders come from Huntsville, which makes me feel like I’m in the right place,â says Corbitt.
Corbitt says the biggest difference between his hats and a mass-produced hat one might buy at a Target department store is feel and quality. “Most of the hats in these stores will be a blend of wool and polyester, and they will be flexible.”
Some clients come to Corbitt with pictures of a celebrity wearing a hat, wanting to do the same look. âSomething they saw in an old classic movie,â Corbitt says. âOr maybe something they saw Cam Newton wear,â referring to the NFL quarterback known for dressing colorfully off the field.
Area resident Buz White, who works in sales, wanted Corbitt to make him a leopard-print flat-brimmed hat similar to the one White had seen great footballer Deion Sanders wear in the photos. (White isn’t a huge Sanders fan, he just thought the hat was awesome.) Corbitt tricked the look with a purple silk lining and a rattlesnake headband. White says he usually pairs his Nathan Mason hat with a T-shirt and jeans. âThe hat went perfectly. No one else has one exactly like that, âWhite says. “And that’s also a topic of conversation, ‘Hey man, where did you get that hat? “”
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