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BILL RADKE: “If you want to get ahead, get a hat.” That was a British advertising slogan from the 1940s, when virtually every adult male wore some formal headgear. Men’s hats fell dramatically out of fashion in the ’60s. But in recent years there’s been a revival, much to the relief of one offbeat little shop in the southern English town of Bridport.
Marketplace’s Europe correspondent Stephen Beard paid a visit.
STEPHEN BEARD: There’s been a Snooks Outfitters in Bridport for over a century. Today Roger Snook upholds the family tradition — supplying accessories and advice for the well-dressed English gentleman.
ROGER SNOOK: Now the art of taking snuff — offer it to the nose one side and inhale. Then t’other and inhale.
Snuff and sock-suspenders. Cravats and cummerbunds. But Snook’s most important product — by far — is the hat.
SNOOK: Elegance, class, style, character. It is just a magnificent appendage to have on your head.
Convincing his customers of that is Snook’s mission in life.
SNOOK: Would you mind just slipping that one on, sir? Thank you.
He stocks a vast range — trilbies and fedoras, homburgs, bowlers, boaters, and a huge array of Panamas, including the “Panama Planter.”
SNOOK: Beautiful shape. With a cheroot in your mouth you’d look… plantation owner. Guaranteed, sir.
Men’s hat sales began to plummet in Britain when JFK arrived in the White House, hatless. The decline quickened here, throughout the ’60s, in line with the slacker approach to dress. But Snook says things are now looking up.
SNOOK: I’d say over the last seven years my sales have gone up 70 percent.
And it’s not just Snooks. Nationally, hat sales hat have jumped to well over $80 million a year. No one can can fully explain it, but men’s hats are staging a comeback in Britain.
SNOOK: The wide-brimmed English Trilby is to your satisfaction, sir?
CUSTOMER: It’s a beautiful hat.
Roger Snook has just organized the U.K.’s first hat festival. It was a big success. He’s confident that his deeply traditional little business — selling snuff and sock-suspenders — will survive the 21st century thanks to the hat.
SNOOK: May I wish you a long and happy association with your new hat, sir!
CUSTOMER: Thank you.
At Snooks Outfitters in Bridport, England, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.
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