Friday Friends: Hats Off
CowboySpirit.TV- This week's edition of Friday Friends features an article from the American Cowboy, written by Tracey Fiest.
As Greeley Hat Works approaches its 100th anniversary, owner Trent Johnson Elevates the artistry and craftsmanship of custom cowboy hats.
The business card declares, simply, “Trent Johnson, Hatter.” And yes, Trent Johnson does make hats, but anyone who knows the owner of Greeley Hat Works knows that the title doesn’t quite capture the measure of the man. This gregarious, down-to-earth Coloradoan is more than a craftsman. He is an artisan. The only diff erences between Johnson and a conventional artist are the materials he uses, which in Johnson’s case are felt, straw, and the other makings of custom-made Western hats.
His artistry is his gift for working his media into headwear that perfectly complements
the personalities of his clientele. Selling more than 3,000 hats a year from his new 5,000-square-foot store in the heart of Greeley, Colo., and cleaning and restoring another 1,200 hats annually, Johnson is nonetheless modest enough to describe himself as a guy who “didn’t have good enough grades to get into business school in college.”
For all of that, Johnson was honored as Greeley’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” by
Northern Colorado Business Report.
“As a kid I didn’t collect baseball cards, I collected hats,” Johnson says. “On a family
holiday to the grand opening of Epcot, I took hats home as souvenirs from all the different world booths—a fez hat from Morocco, a beret from France, a ‘bobby hat’ from London—that’s kind of not normal,” he says with a grin.
His foray into hat making began in an indirect fashion when he went to work for Greeley Hat Works owner Susie Orr in 1993—not as a hat maker, but as a cowboy. Orr and her family owned a ranch outside Greeley. Johnson met her when he went to her hat shop, which was located on the ranch grounds, to get his own hat cleaned and blocked.
Orr had been looking for a ranch hand. Johnson recalls that, when the subject came up, “One of the things they liked about me was that I had no preconceived notions [about ranch work]. I hadn’t grown up on a ranch and learned from my dad or granddad.”
From that beginning, it was fairly predictable that the guy who collected hats would find his way into the hat making shop and fi nd something to occupy himself with in there, too. His penchant for immersion was showing itself on both fronts. Says Johnson: “I was basically a sponge, analyzing cows and cowboy hats.”
[Read the rest of the article at http://www.americancowboy.com/node/857]
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