Giuseppe Borsalino – nicknamed “u siur Pipen” (Master Joe) in the local dialect of Alessandria, Italy was born in 1834. Starting out as a messenger and then an apprentice he found work at the Berteil hat workshop in the Rue du Temple in Paris. He worked there for about seven years before qualifying as a Master Hatter.
A year after his return to his native Italy in 1857, Giuseppe opened his first workshop in a in Alessandria with his brother Lazzaro. This was the beginning of a legend that would achieve great success under the name of Borsalino.
In 1897 the Guiseppe visited the Battersby hat making factory in London and and took back to Italy the English secret for making a perfect bowler hat-the iconic British shape.
Giuseppe Borsalino passed away in 1900 and his son, Teresio, followed him at the head of the company. Production of hats grew from 2,800 a day in 1901 to 5,500 in 1909 and to a record number of two million hats a year in the 1920’s. That same year, the Company won the Grand Prix at the Exposition Universelle de Paris. In 1911 the Company collaborated with Marcello Dudovich, leading to a turning point in the history of advertising and over the next few years, Borsalino advertising posters are among the most famous of their era.
Today the company has 11 company owned stores in Italy and an outpost in Paris and is sold in some of the most prestigious retailers and department stores internationally.
Each Borsalino product made of fine fur felt (rabbit or hare) passes through around fifty production phases and it takes an average of seven weeks’ work to finish every hat. The process begins with fraying: sorting the fur and continues through blowing it to mix the fur.
Using a suction process, the falling hairs attach to the cone which rotates inside a bell and set by a jet of hot water. A first strengthening is carried out using the “steam rollers”. These mechanical movements of these machines allow the fibres to adhere more effectively to each other and results in a more compact felt. After drying, the felts are moved to the “Blanks Store” where they are assembled and divided by quality and colour.
The felts are now dyed in machines at atmospheric pressure and at boiling temperature for between 90 and 240 minutes depending on the weight of the felts. In the second shaping, the hood is given its final shape. The flanging prepares the felt, using a special machine, to take on the final shape of the inside rim.
The final phase is finishing which includes the last stages: trimming, sewing the lining, hat band and the grosgrain, application of any other accessories.
The hat is then ready for sale.