I recently had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Temkin, the Torontonian behind Leon Drexler Bespoke Hats. Temkin, a writer, designer, and avid hat wearer, launched the label in 2009 after spending over two years seeking out the old tools and researching the techniques required to pursue what is a nearly forgotten métier: the traditional handcrafting of high-quality fedoras and other soft felt dress hats. (The company moniker is an amalgamation of his father’s first name and mother’s maiden name.)
The features of a Leon Drexler fedora reflect Temkin’s commitment to quality and custom service:
100% Beaver Felt
Felt for a hat is most typically made from wool, rabbit, hare, beaver, or various blends of these materials. But pure beaver is indisputably the finest due to its weather resistance, its remarkable durability, its light weight relative to its great tensile strength, and its soft, luxurious hand.
Pure Silk Lining
The interior lining of each Leon Drexler hat is individually tailored from high-quality Italian silk satin. In addition to its sheer beauty, pure silk enhances the comfort of a hat through its effective thermal and moisture wicking properties. For those looking for a cooler option, a very breathable, open-weave linen lining is also available.
Sheepskin Leather Sweatband
Often called “roan” leather, this full-grain, vegetable tanned leather is considered the finest for hats because it provides just the right structural balance between sturdiness and suppleness. The sweatband can be imprinted with your name, initials, or other small inscriptions.
All of the components of a Leon Drexler hat——the felt, lining, sweatband, ribbon and bow——are carefully sewn together. There is no use of glue or other construction shortcuts. This maintains the integrity of the felt and, if ever required, allows for proper refurbishing or repair.
Made to Measure
All Leon Drexler hats are made to fit your precise head size and personal wearing preferences, not just your commercial hat size.
Styled by Hand
Instead of being pressed into shape on pre-styled blocks, the crown of a Leon Drexler is fashioned by hand. This enables subtle and individual nuances of form and contour. It also endows the hat with a more sensuous, organic quality and the relaxed, fluid lines that best show off the character of fine felt.
Temkin’s hats are offered as Portfolio or custom models. The Portfolio models allow for variation in the colour of the felt and the ribbon and, in some cases, ribbon width, brim width, and felt finish and weight. Custom hats allow for even more variations.
All hats are priced starting from $425 CND and include a good quality box designed for efficient storage and transport. (Mr. Temkin informs me that prices will be increased this September.)
If you’re looking for a unique formal hat, the Budapester model retails for $525. As you can see, it has many of the characteristics of a Homburg but with a front pinch that makes it a little more informal.
Temkin’s method for sewing the binding onto a curled brim such as this one is a method pretty much forgotten today because it is too laborious. You can get a sense of how it is done on the blog for bow tie makers Noeud Papillon which features a photo essay on the making of a hat for the company’s proprietor. The essay is in three parts starting here.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of owning your very own showpiece of quality headwear, be sure to visit the Leon Drexler site for photographs, descriptions and ordering information.