Where Have All The Real Hats Gone?

In 1959, when I was 2 years old, almost every man wore a dress hat of some sort. Not a baseball cap but a real hat. A hat with a brim. A hat with style. A hat with a feather. A real hat. Then something happened. A Catholic Democrat from Massachusetts with a thick crop of hair got elected by a very thin margin. He NEVER wore a hat. Within a year the hat industry went away. The bottom fell out. It has

In 1959, when I was 2 years old, almost every man wore a dress hat of some sort. Not a baseball cap but a real hat. A hat with a brim. A hat with style. A hat with a feather. A real hat. Then something happened. A Catholic Democrat from Massachusetts with a thick crop of hair got elected by a very thin margin. He NEVER wore a hat. Within a year the hat industry went away. The bottom fell out. It has never fully recovered. (A new conspiracy theory perhaps, hat guys on the grassy knoll?)

I was in Houston speaking to several hundred contractors that belong to a wonderful association recently (thanks, Nancy!). After my talk I left the hotel to find a Starbucks. What I was really looking for was a hat store; a real hat store. I had a Kangol in mind (think actor Samuel L. Jackson). As I pulled into the parking lot, for my little taste of Seattle, there it was… "The Hat Store."

I walked in and two tall Texans greeted me with a "Howdy." They were decked out in true Texas sartorial splendor: ten-gallon hats, oversized shiny belt buckles. This was a classy hat store. As I looked around, my body language gave me away. Not a Kangol in sight.

"Have you ever been in our store before?"

"No," I replied with a sad look on my face.

Noticing my countenance, one of them asked, "Were you looking for something specific?"

Looking like Sad Sack from a Beetle Bailey cartoon I replied, "Actually, I am looking for a Kangol and I don't think you carry them do you?"

Not missing a beat, with broad Texas grins, they proceeded to give me instructions on how to get to the best store for that product. They were so nice. They had such great attitudes. They really cared.

Feeling like I owed them something for their kindness I said, "You know, I don't even know what size hat I need?"

They proceeded to help me clarify. It turned out I was a 7-7/8 (let's just call it an 8!). They let me try on a few hats to make certain. Then one of them came back with a beautiful hat.

"This is probably an exact fit," he said as he put IT on me. It was a Borsalino.

"It matches your shirt. Now THAT looks nice!" he said with enthusiasm.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. He was right. Style.

"The great thing about this hat is…" and he proceeded to close the sale. He grabbed a 4-by-6 card and proceeded to type on an old IBM Selectric. "The correct spelling of your first and last name?"

Without thinking I replied, "M-A-R-K M-A-T-T-E-S-O-N."

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Then he told me how this hat has a little bungee cord that you hook to your lapel in case the wind blows your hat off your head. I was hooked.

"We always stamp initials on the inside in gold. Is MM OK?"

"Last question," he said with that Texas grin. "Will that be check, cash or charge?"

Again without hesitation I handed them my credit card. Sales happen when Trust, Relationship, Competence and Timing come together. I never even asked how much!

I have since found my Kangol at a wonderful old hat store on 3rd and Union in Seattle. I am doing my best to undo what Jackie O's first husband did to the hat industry. I am moving on from my baseball hat collection. I recently picked up a nice "pork pie" hat, black. People think I am a Jazz Musician. (No, that's my brother.)

What are you doing to improve your ability to build Trust, develop Relationships, improve your Competence and understand Timing? Your sales will improve if you do. That's what JFK would have wanted.

Mark Matteson is an industry consultant, speaker and writer. He can be reached by phone at 877/672-2001, by fax at 425/ 745- 8981 or by e-mail at psgmarkm@ msn. com. His Website is www.mattesonavenue.com