Borsalino is an entrepreneurial choice that marks the beginning of a long history of excellent craftsmanship, which has survived wars, told Hollywood stories, and taught us about the present
Text by: Domenico Constantini and Gilda Bruno
Borsalino, a name that over the years has become synonymous with ‘hat,’ just like the bowler hat, the turban, or the beret.
The success of the Alessandria hat is all down to Giuseppe Borsalino, ‘u siur Pipen’, who on 4th April 1857 set up a small workshop in Via Schiavina, Alessandria, specialising in the production of felt hats. The workshop grew rapidly until it became an industry and in 1888 the company moved to the new factory in Corso Cento Cannoni, designed by Arnaldo Gardella. On the eve of the First World War, Borsalino produced around two million hats a year, driving the economy of the Piedmontese city. But ‘u siur Pipen’ had more ambitious projects. Abroad, the Borsalino name has conquered strategic markets such as the City of London with its Borsalino bowler hats, and the United States, where hats made in Alessandria went crazy in the golden age of Hollywood, right up to the present day.
Humphrey Bogart‘s farewell to Ingrid Bergman in ‘Casablanca’ would not have been the same without that felt hat that framed the faces of the two protagonists, ready to part forever. And after all, what would Alain Delon, Harrison Ford, and John Belusci have been without the legendary black hat pulled down over their heads? And the cinema knows this well. The hat that has contributed most to shaping the world’s imagination. Directors, actors, composers, writers, politicians, and entrepreneurs. Even heads of state. There is no person who counts who has not worn it.
Think of Gianni Agnelli, Warren Beatty, Charlie Chaplin, Harry Truman, Giuseppe Verdi, and Ernest Hemingway to get an idea of its success. From Giulio Andreotti and Francesco Cossiga to Fred Astaire and Umberto Eco. Up to gangsters of the calibre of Al Capone. In addition to Bogart and Bergman, it was also worn on the big screen by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in ‘Blues Brothers’ and Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger. Not to mention the film ‘Borsalino’, shot in 1970 with Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo. But the superstar headgear is also the favourite of Rorschach, one of the main characters in the comic book ‘Watchmen’ and in the manga/anime ‘One Piece,’ one of the three Admirals goes by the name of Borsalino.
If in the Hollywood of the 1940s it was usually characters such as private detectives and gangsters, the ‘hard men,’ the suit that usually matches the Borsalino is the trench coat, as Humphrey Bogart does in ‘Casablanca’. In the collective imagination, then, there is also Marcello Mastroianni in ‘8 1/2’. The Italian actor’s photogram was so indelible that it prompted Robert Redford to write a letter to an heir of the Alexandrian company asking for the same headgear. “Dear Vittorio, you may remember me,” wrote the American actor two years ago, “My name is Robert Redford.” We also remember that Borsalino is the hat that Michael Jackson used during performances such as Billie Jean or Smooth Criminal.
In short, Made in Italy in the world represents creativity, quality, and Italian lifestyle, and Borsalino has certainly contributed to this.
Happy Birthday, Borsalino!
On the occasion of the legendary millinery house’s 164 anniversary, which fell last April, Borsalino unveiled a collection inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, and a mini-series to celebrate its milestone
Hats are no longer only for shielding us, but rather for the fashionable purpose of uncovering and expressing our dress sense to our surroundings. Borsalino, a globally recognised leading style house with over a 160-year history, is transforming its DNA into modern aesthetic canons fit for the future. For this, the brand’s relaunch strategy is being carried out under the artistic direction of Giacomo Santucci, who took the reins of the business in 2020.
On the occasion of Milano Moda Donna, Borsalino celebrated the Fall-Winter 2021/22 collection by addressing contemporary themes through the creative lens of art, as they have done throughout history. With its symbols and styles, the Arts & Crafts movement becomes a tool for expressing the urgent need to reconnect with nature and one’s own inner dimension, giving authenticity and savoir-faire value.
The collection was shown over a short video titled HAT YOUR DIVERSITY, a video that celebrated female elegance, creativity, and personal style. Riccardo Rolandi, the videomaker, shot the film in the centre of Milan, with protagonists wearing their personal choice of the Borsalino FW 21/22 hat from the new collection.
The inspiration is translated into feminine millinery pieces that play with decorative elements, enhancing the timeless shapes Audrey, Claudette, Sophie,and Violet, flanked by two new additions Lucy and Eveline. Borsalino’s proposals for women are rigorous and sentimental, with romantic details woven in: from the leather band to the chenille trim, optical patchwork ribbon to striped mohair.
According to the house, the Eleonora model is expected to become the best-seller, with foliage motif decorations running from the ribbon to the lining. It is designed in a series of pastel colorways, as well as in a glamorous black.
From unisex baseball and sailor hats, the classic beret, to the bucket, there is something for everyone. Knitted beanies come in precious eco-cashmere, with the addition of a calfskin-effect fabric in a daring cow print in both patent leather and rainproof.
Since 1857, the making of a Borsalino hat has been an artisanal craft. The Spinetta Marengo Manufacture is a beautiful place where men and machines interact as if they were in a big orchestra. Borsalino felts take form between ancient wooden tools and puffs of steam, thanks to an old manufacturing method that takes creativity, time, and experience. As disclosed by the house’s press release, each hat requires more than fifty manual steps and seven weeks of processing time.
To celebrate the excellence of the house, From April 4-6, another exciting project titled Being Giuseppe Borsalino was streamed on the @borsalino_world Instagram and Facebook to commemorate the milliner’s legacy. The mini-series consisted of six episodes set in the nineteenth century, a historical era marked by confidence in advancement and the democratisation of the arts.
Find out more below.