When I was a kid, I went through a hat phase. I had a bunch of them and I wore them everywhere. The jewel of my collection was an antique wool felt derby hat that was made with a wider and flatter brim than you see Laurel & Hardy or John Hartford wearing.
My parents were not photographers, so there are not many pictures of me in my favorite hat, but mom does have a silhouette made of me wearing my chapeau during our visit to Disney World.
I loved this hat until it fell apart. I still have the brass ring that kept the brim stiff.
As I said, this old derby had an unusual design. And since mine fell apart back in 1982, I have looked and inquired everywhere trying to find something with a similar design.
Today, on a lark, I thought I would look around one more time for this particular design and I found one!
It turns out my hat was made, like most good things in this world, in Philadelphia! Frank Schobel and Company made hats on 10th and Oxford streets. My crazy old hat was what Schobel called a Philadelphia Derby.
It’s cheap felt with a rough leather sweatband and a gold leaf stamp on the crown. The hat has pinholes at the top of the crown to keep your head from getting too sweaty. I loved the design as a kid because it was similar to other derbies, but with a Philadelphia rough and ready attitude blended in. It wasn’t a posh British fancy lad kind of hat. More like something you would see a guy wearing cocked at an angle on his head as he beat the snot out of somebody in an alley in an old cops and robbers picture.
The hat I found today is too small. I need to find one in 7 1/2. It was still cool to solve a riddle that goes all the way back to when my father and I were just starting on the banjo.