Throwing Shade

Hats off to milliner Dean Pozniak for continuing his family’s hat making legacy

Words: Dean Pozniak

“My old man and Alfred Manyoni have helped me a lot in understanding how the factory works, how to manage people, and a whole lot more,” says fourth-generation milliner Dean Pozniak, whose hat brand Simon and Mary comes from a background of over 70 years experience in headwear.

Using machinery bought in the 60s and continuing the legacy created by the original milliner, Simon Pozniak, so many responsibilities now rest on Dean’s head. Not least of these is the need to educate us on all things hat-related: how to travel with a hat, the best ways to wear a hat, what should be taken into consideration when choosing a hat for yourself, and what the deal is with Pharell Williams’ mountie hat.

I am fortunate enough to be working with the same machinery and people that my grandfather and family have been working with for decades. It’s a long process that involves a lot of steam, water, pressure, heavy machinery and a steady hand. You can get a better idea of how we make our hats by having a look at this video.

My grandfather, father and uncle have always been good to our staff. They have always been treated fairly during hard times – and have certainly repaid us with good faith, hard work, and dedication. There is the older generation here passing on their skills to the youngsters, who generally are relations of the older generation. Keeping it in the family and passing this knowledge on to people we all can trust has helped us in the past and will continue helping us with our growth moving forward.

Just like any other item of clothing needs to be the right fit, so does your hat. It’s always good to try on a few and get a natural feel for the right fit. All aspects play a part but with the wide variety of options, there is always a hat out there somewhere for every person.

I think the hat audience has definitely widened in the last few years. Back in the day it was gentlemen who would wear hats – the taller your hat, the higher you were ranked in terms of class. Nowadays, a hat's more of a fashion item. With a wider variety of people wearing hats the etiquette will naturally change and in turn create different hat wearers.

When travelling, a hatbox is always the best option. Otherwise wear your hat on the plane and place it safely in storage above your seat. We have released a foldable range, which is very suitable for traveling compared to our more rigid hats.

I love all hats equally! It’s amazing to see how Pharrell can influence something on such a large scale. He brought back Vivienne Westwood’s Mountain Hat, which she released in the 80s, and so assisted in growing the hat trend.

Hat icons? Depends on whom you ask. In today’s times it would obviously be Pharrell. Going back in the day, characters like Indiana Jones, Crocodile Dundee, people from the Royal Family, Audrey Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin… Hats have been around for decades. The list is endless.

Always make sure when buying your hat that it is not too tight, and not too loose. It must feel snug, but not so tight that it gives you a headache. Head down and some focus will see you through windy conditions.

It all depends on the weather. I don’t think a lot of people would wear a straw hat in winter, but in summer, on the colder days, a felt hat can still be worn.

We have found that most of our customers buy across both ranges. We have concluded that 95% of our hats are unisex. The longer, floppier brims (Leah) would generally be more for a woman, although some guys have purchased these and pulled off the look.

We are lucky to have a wide demographic when it comes to our customer. We have older gentlemen, younger folk - all walks of life really.

Hats have been around for ages. For now, they're certainly trending. This may dip at some point but they will be around, I’m hoping, forever.

How a person wears a hat is up to the wearer. The older gentleman would wear it straight on, maybe with a slight tilt to the side. These days the younger generation is wearing them as they wish, tilted back generally being the more casual and comfortable look.

There is absolutely no correlation between my height (6’6) and making hats. Although it would be a good story telling people that the chemicals from the factory mutated my family’s genes and in turn created ‘giant’ milliners.

Talking about giants, there is such a thing as a hat person. The perfect example being Mr Hat – go check him out on Instagram @MRHAT_

* Photo credits: Pieter Vosloo (image of Dean in the factory), Aimee Pozniak (image of Dean, Alfred and Simon, as well as image taken on the roof top of building), campaign photographs Nico Krijno, art direction by Jana and Koos. All other photographs from the Simon & Mary Instagram.