We go hat hunting in Bavaria and discover the fine headwear of the Hutmacher of Regensburg
Hat-making is a serious business, and nowhere more so than amongst the mediaeval spires and baroque alleyways of the north-Bavarian city of Regensburg.
Regensburg is a prosperous community of some 180,000 souls, perched on the banks of the River Danube, which has been a significant trading post since pre-Roman times.
Gone are the traders of fine cloths and spices from these, the northern reaches of the Silk Road. But, some crafts have weathered the march of time and progress, and that includes hat-making.
Also known as the Hutkönig (the hat king), the Regensburg institution, Der Hutmacher – the hat-maker – stands in a mildly unassuming position at the north western corner of Domplatz, Cathedral Square, in the imposing shadow of the 13th century St Peter’s Cathedral.
Whilst the square is a year-round focal point for tourists who arch their backs, point their phones skywards and try to capture a slice of the High Gothic architecture, some of course, do venture in to the Hutmacher. Priorities, priorities – a man has to have priorities.
Stepping back in time
First impressions are that the entrance door serves as a time machine. In the blink of an eye, we are propelled back to an era that would be more familiar to our grandfathers.
It is quiet, it is deeply traditional and, despite being undeniably a cut above, it is both honest and respectful. It should come as little surprise to learn that the Hutmacher of Regensburg is a family business which has been owned and operated down the generations since 1875.
The store bleeds heritage and legacy. The vast majority of the stock is handmade in their own facilities, although they do carry a selection of leading brands. Moser, for example. Theatrical pieces are given pride of place, along with styles for luminaries including, no less, local lad, Pope Benedict XVI.
Women’s millinery is up on the first floor but it is on the ground floor where the action for chaps takes place.
There are a lot of fine hats to choose from. Comfortably in to the hundreds; from traditional Bavarian headwear to western styles, from classic fedoras to pork-pies and gamblers, and from basic sun protectors to Panamas of various degrees, up to and including high-grade Super Fino creations. These will easily make a dent in your pocket northwards of €600!
Budget, know your limitations
Except for the Chosen Few, price is always going to be a factor for us, the lesser mortals. This means that it is best to set a sensible budget before setting foot inside. And stick to it…if you can.
The baseline should be around €90-€100. But, don’t be surprised to find the odd reduced item for half that money, especially if you take a particularly large or small size.
However, many a serious hat fan will be able to easily talk himself up to the €300 bracket which will secure a piece of handmade, hare-felt, beautifully-finished crowning glory. A Hutmacher piece will turn heads, that’s for sure.
Service, it’s the luck of the draw
At the time of writing, the business is actively trying to recruit shop floor personnel.
And that can only be a good thing thing. Because, we suspect that you can easily tell which staff members have their heart, soul and DNA invested in the business. And those who, well, not so much.
Frankly, when you are about to drop the country’s average weekly wage on something that is (possibly) not entirely essential, you need a tip-top styling partnership and not a battle to try to engage with someone who is disinterested, distracted and would possibly rather be at the dentist.
However, despite any temporary hiccups, the Regensburg Hutmacher is doubtless set to add its history which spans now more than 140 years. It’s just too unique and wonderful an experience to go the way of so many bricks and mortar stores.
Of course, they do trade online, but there can be few things more satisfying and rewarding than personally investing an hour or two in selecting the perfect piece, finding that your card hasn’t been declined, turning down the wrapping service and saying, “That’s OK, I’ll be wearing it now.”