In 1889, so the story goes, a young apprentice hatmaker named Herbert Louis Johnson happened to be nearby when the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) lost his hat in a gust of wind while riding in the park. The young hatter retrieved the royal topper and offered his professional services. The hat was duly repaired and the Prince so satisfied with Johnson’s work that he recommended he go into business for himself. Thus, Herbert Johnson Hatters was born, with Royal Warrant, and in the following century they became one of the great makers of headwear in England.
…However, it would take almost a century before the event that would, perhaps, lead to their greatest claim to fame.
True story: Some time in 1980, a film director named Steven Spielberg and an actor named Harrison ford strolled, unannounced, into Herbert Johnson’s London store. They were soon to begin filming an old-fashioned adventure movie and needed an old-fashioned looking hat. Herbert Johnson Hatters had been recommended to them as one of the London hatmakers that was still producing the same headwear it had made in the 1930’s. Ford looked their wares over, and a Fedora – called the “Poet” – was duly selected for it’s high crown, throwback feel and undeniable swagger. Once bashed, beaten and aged to look like it had already seen years of action it was quickly put into real action in filming. The movie, of course, Spielberg’s masterpiece “Raiders of the Lost Ark“.
Today, as a result of that auspicious visit, literally millions of Indiana Jones style hats have been sold. The Herbert Johnson “Poet”, however, is regarded by aficionados as the holy grail of Indy hats. The venerable hatmaker’s name is now inextricably linked with one of the most famous names in movie history, and the hat: an icon of cinema.
…Every hatmaker in the world would have given their right hand, that day, to be so lucky to have that visit.