BROWN: I think one thing wrong in America today is that things are too much 
"get it out, manufacture it, and sell it for what you can". I don't like that, 
I really don't. I'm a great believer in that

    Dave Brown is one of about only 65 custom hat makers left in the country. He 
says these days, hats continue to grow in popularity after the trend nearly died out 
in the '1960s.

BROWN: I am told by the old timers in this industry that after the second World War 
it started to drop off. And I was told that the reason was alot of young men were tired 
of wearing a two and a half pound steel pot on top- they weren't going to wear no more
hats. In the 1960s, it was stylish to have long hair. It was stylish to be without a hat
and a lot of people blamed President Kennedy for that. He didn't wear a hat so therefore
it was "out" at that time.

    Brown retails Stetson, Biltmore and Dobbs apparell but it's his custom hats: fedors
and western models, that have attracted attention of museums, customers throughout the
nation and stars from the entertainment world like Robert Redford, Charlie Daniels and
Randy Travis. But Dave says special hats aren't right for everybody.

BROWN: I never met anybody who didn't look good in a certain style of hat. The problem
being is that there's no that many vendors of hats anymore and people don't have great
choices. When a customer comes in for a certain type of hat and it won't look good on hi,
I won't make it. I've had customers who've come in and their 5 foot 6 and weigh 280 pounds
and want me to make them look like Harrison Ford with a Raider of the Lost Ark hat- try
that on for size- that's tough.

    Dave likes to spend a week to ten days on a single hat, whcih can cost upwards of 450
dollars. The rough bodies arrive from Tennessee- beaver and rabbit hats are popular. The
pelts are steamed and formed over a block- the body shape of the hat, before it's sanded,
trimmed and shaped- all by hand, according to the request. He'd prefer to eyeball the
customer. If that's not possible, photos must be submitted.

BROWN: Because the hat has to be built around the gentleman or lady's face. And certain
brims and certain crowns don't look good with certain faces. To manufacture a 7 and
three-eighths for somebody- sight unseen- and ship it to them I don't think you'd be able
to find me to do that. I would have to have something to work with. I consider this an art

    Brown takes pride in making hats the way it was done centuries ago, using tools of the
period to boot-

BROWN: This is a brim cutter- I can only prove that it was made before 1870. If I lost
this or somebody stepped on it or someone stole it, I'd be out of business. It's the only
way to cut a brim- dynamite! Here's a motor-driven one that I don't like. You put the
block on and you clamp it down and it goes around like a can opener. As a matter of fact,
that's how I consider it.

    Dave believes there's probably a future in hats, unfortunately, because more and more men 
and women are wearing them because of skin cancer risks. But the custom hatters themselves may 
not be around to keep the hat racks supplied.

BROWN: The sad part is that they're very few young guys like me. Tell me I look young..

FLYNN: You look young!

BROWN: Why, thank you. But most of the guys are really old and most of the guys die with
their secrets. And then somebody takes these wooden flanges and blocks and says, boy, 
they really burn good in the fireplace, you know. You can buy new stuff: molds and
machines that mold hats but it's rare to find stuff like this. And we don't have guys
around who are willing to teach ya. And it's something that if I was just in the hatting
business I'd be out of this business ten years ago broke. This is my hobby, this is what
I enjoy.. this is fun.

    Finally, Brown says there's no truth in the belief that wearing hats causes hair loss.

BROWN: I'm always wearing a hat. And it hasn't done anything to the hair- I've got a full
head of hair, you can see that. It gets balder from the head board than it does with a
hat... you can interpret that any way you want to.  Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370.