By Gus Herrera
Cody Wellema, founder of Wellema Hat Company, is much more than a gifted hat-maker. He is an artist and a historian – a man whose business is truly the manifestation of his passion and attention-to-detail.
Wellema’s call to hat-making was birthed from a combination of his business savvy and personal interests.
His love for the lifestyle, essence, and culture of the early 20th century led him to discover a passion for hats, “I love the ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s. That era of life that was so simple to me, so much different than now. It wasn’t about who’s the top celebrity or who has the most ‘likes’ on Facebook, or any of that stuff … you lived your life, an honest life, and you worked for your family. With the great depression and the wars – it was tough, but it was about getting through those times in the simplest manner and loving life.”
Wellema loves silent films and music from that era and he enjoys looking at old historical photographs and family portraits. Soon, he discovered a common denominator in everything he saw: everyone was wearing hats – in every movie, in every old photograph. Hats were a staple of the time, both for fashion and practicality.
As a result, hats became symbolic of that era for Wellema – they became the artistic expression for his appreciation of that time period.
A few years ago, Wellema’s keen eye began to notice a change in fashion trends and he saw it as an opportunity to make a difference, “I saw hats were becoming very popular again – very trendy and fashionable, and also very functional. But I also saw a lot of hats that were not up to the quality that they used to be. Today, you can go anywhere and get a hat, but the quality isn’t anywhere close to where it used to be.”
So he decided to take matters into his own hands and began to research hat-making, a process which was, at first, quite experimental, “I would take old vintage hats from that era and take them apart to see how they did it … I would say 80 to 90 percent of it was self-taught and then, when I decided this is truly what I wanted to do, I reached out to some people who had been doing it for many years.”
Wellema revealed that, in the beginning, hat-makers were hesitant to reveal trade secrets. But as time went on, he began earning the respect of the hat-making community and, slowly-but-surely, he was able to cultivate the critical business contacts that, today, allow him to create his products from materials of the highest quality.
Wellema Hat Company’s motto reads, “Hats Made to Outlast the Head it Sits on,” and all their products are meant to withstand the test of time. Wellema envisions each hat he makes as a potential family heirloom, an item that can be passed down from generation to generation.
Each hat is made-to-order and the components are American-made. Wellema hats are made from premium fur-felt, which comes from America’s last-standing felting company in Tennessee. Felts are available in three different durable tiers of quality that will each allow your hat to endure all the elements.
The interior sweatbands are made from premium leather, from a mom-and-pop leather company based in the Midwest. For the exterior, you can select from both vintage and modern trims, in all different colors.
Wellema creates all hats by hand, using traditional wooden blocks to taper and shape, some of which are over 100 years old.
In addition to custom-made hats, Wellema Hat Company offers cleaning and blocking services. The store also carries a variety of high quality, handmade leather accessories, grooming materials (i.e. shaving cream, beard oil, soap), and more unique gifts.
Wellema Hat Company is located at 837 E. Mariposa St. in Altadena.
For more information, call (626) 720-4132, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.wellemahatco.com.