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From Collector to Creator

Valley Hat Maker Uses Artistry and Personalization to Create the Perfect Fit

No one is quite sure of the origin of hats, but some of the earliest depictions go back to ancient Egypt. Originally to keep people’s heads warm, hats eventually turned from practical to stylish.

For Valley resident Jono Gross, his affection for hats began with buying hats anytime he went on a trip or attended a special event.

“I was always buying hats to commemorate memorable experiences,” he says. “I can look at a hat and tell you the whole story of a trip, and where it’s gone. I have about 60 hats to date, and the obsession keeps growing.”

Soon, the obsession went beyond just owning to creating—maybe because it was in his heritage.

Generations before him were seamstresses and tailors, and nearly everyone in the family has a sewing kit, so the idea of making something of his own wasn’t hard. However, it was more about the artistry and craftsmanship behind the hat-making that really struck a chord.

“I started to go through the hats that I had to see how they were made and how artists made their different stitches. That is when I went on a quest to figure it out myself,” he says. “I would go to hatters around the country to support their businesses by buying a hat and seeing if there were any techniques they would share which would help me learn along the way.”

Gross also began watching videos to see if he could figure out all the tools he would need to get started.
“When I bought my first materials, it was such a cool feeling, and then I bought my first hat block, an important tool for making hats. After that, I bought an entire set from an estate sale and picked up vintage equipment from the 1940s,” he shares. “At first, I just kept making hats for myself because I wasn’t ready to put what I’d created out into the world.”

However, Gross kept working hard to perfect his process, and after a lot of trial and error, learned different ways of making hats that people would appreciate and love.

“I had a lot of fun experimenting with making hats—some of the best times for me—and it was feeding my soul to do this.”

Currently, Gross’ shop and tools are in a trailer, which is where he measures, creates, and experiments. Hat-making is his creative outlet when he takes a break from running his marketing business. Rather than owning a storefront, Gross wants to create custom designs on the road, bringing his mobile hat shop to customers.

“I appreciate the whole design process, and I’m really looking forward to helping people get a hat that fits their head exactly right, as well as their personality and taste,” he says.

Some of Gross’ greatest accomplishments are creating hats with meaning. He takes great pride in the fact that they are custom-made, handstitched, and personalized.

Simply, he loves what he does.

“I tell people I want to make hats until the day I die, simply because I love it so much,” he says. His next steps include a new trailer, which will be more store-like in that it will be large enough to hold display racks with walls of hats both for purchase and to give customers an idea of the designs he can create.

Beyond his hats, Gross is known for one more thing—his mustache. He is ranked number one in the nation for it, winning Best In Show at the 2022 National Beard and Mustache Championship. He was wearing one of his custom-designed hats and the mustache as his look, Wildman, when he won, of course.

Instagram: @wildmanhatter and @shoplivewestern