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Borsalino hat
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That hat.
NO HAT TRICKS

The maker of the world’s coolest hats is heading toward bankruptcy

By Annalisa Merelli

Borsalino, the legendary Italian hat maker that has been covering the heads of Hollywood stars and the world’s rich and famous is in financial trouble—and may be close to bankruptcy. According to Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore (link in Italian), the company’s CEO Marco Moccia says:

The board of directors are evaluating different options to combat the financial difficulties and enable the company to continue its activity.

The company has been operating for over 150 years, and lately  ”there has been an increase in demand of products,” said a company spokesman, so much so that the company was able to raise some of its already premium prices, particularly for “religious” hats sold in Israel. But good sales aren’t enough to counter bad finance: In 2013, the company lost almost €22 million ($24 million), and revenue fell 11% to €13.6 million, Reuters reports. According to Italian press, the company has filed for Chapter 11-like creditor protection, though the company hasn’t provided further information. (Borsalino has not responded to request for comment.)

Further, the majority of the company is controlled by a German-based holding led by financier Marco Marenco—who was recently charged with fraud and tax evasion and whose reckless management has put the Borsalino’s financial stability at stake (link in Italian).

From Al Capone to Japanese Emperor Hirohito all the way to trendy young fashionistas: a broad clientele is  willing to pay for an original Borsalino whose price that can easily surpass $300.

Borsalino was founded in 1857 in Alessandria, Piedmont, by Giuseppe Borsalino—a hat maker who had worked for a few years at Berteil, Le Grand Chapelier de Paris, before coming back to his home town. With mastery and a bit of cunning (the legend says he was able to steal English hat maker Battersby’s technique during a factory visit) Borsalino grew from a small laboratory to one of the highest-regarded hat makers in the world.

Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo
A classic Borsalino Q.S. model in red felt.

Today, their hats are still made following artisanal practices, using machines that could perhaps sit well in an industrial era museum, such as the “soffiatrice” (the blower) a mid-20th century machine used to mix the fur used for the hats. According to the company’s website, making a Borsalino hat takes from seven weeks to six months, depending on the materials, which are prepared and treated in-house.

Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo
A woman’s hat is displayed in a Borsalino boutique in Milan.

The show-business has a particular love affair with Borsalino.

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman wore Borsalino hats.

Michael Jackson wore many a Borsalino fedoras.

A scene from Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal video.

Indiana Jones wore a Borsalino hat.

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.

Roy Rogers had one.

AP Photo/Susan Ragan
Blues guitarist Roy Rogers wearing his trademark hat.

Pharrell Williams wears a Borsalino.

Madonna, Jonny Depp—Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon even starred in a 1970 movie named after the famous hat.