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Hold On To Your Hats

A special trip to Hatman Jack's in Wichita is worth the trek

I love people who can wear hats. They are so classy, so polished, so panache.

Me? I put on a hat and it looks like something died on my head. That is, until I visited Jack Kellogg in Wichita.

Better known as Hatman Jack, Jack is a soft-spoken, genuinely warm observer of the human face. Choosing the right hat begins with understanding the shape and coloring of each individual face, according to Jack.

“Your face is almost a heart shape, which is great to work with,” he said looking at me with benign objectivity. “It’s slightly longer than it is wide at the widest point and narrows at the chin.”

But round faces, square faces, bold chins or noses, Kellogg has worked with them all and created a pleasing look.

We walked around the counter of his store in Wichita’s historic Delano district and into a workroom filled with sewing machines, irons, and steamers. One wall was filled with shelves holding hundreds of wooden blocks, similar to heads of all shapes and sizes.

These are the tools, some of them dating to the 1800s, that Kellogg and his small staff use to create custom hats or customize previously manufactured hats to adhere to each customer’s individual face shape and coloring.

“You want the crown shape to be a contrast to the shape of your face,” Jack says.

A second showroom filled with literally thousands of hats appropriate for men and women created a colorful array of feathers, ribbons, textures, and accents. Fedoras, fascinators, bowlers, berets, bonnets, Panamas, pillboxes, porkpies, and so on.

Jack reached for a royal blue with a fat ribbon around a slanted boxy crown. It looked like something Queen Elizabeth might wear.

“The queen has a great milliner,” says Jack. “Notice the queen’s hats the older she gets. The brim tilts up ever so slightly. It’s like an immediate facelift.”

Jack then positioned the hat on my head. Unless I received an invitation to tea with the Queen, I could never imagine myself wearing such a thing, but it worked. 

“Blue,” he says, “is your color. It really brings out your eyes.” In any other setting, his words could have been a bad pick-up line, but Jack was all business.

I pointed to a bright yellow hat with a big floppy brim, but he wouldn’t even take it off the wall. Yellow is not my color and the brim too big.

Jack says it’s equally important to understand an individual’s “vibe.” So he picked up a sassy straw hat with a medium brim and colorful green ribbon and positioned it on my head, tipping it ever so slightly to the left and bending the brim up just a bit.

Then he snatched it off my head and disappeared into the back room where he steamed the brim into place.

The final product was perfect for me. I was not the Queen of England, but wow, for a girl from Platte County, Missouri, it looked pretty good.

Who Is Hatman Jack?

Anyone who knows Wichita knows that Kellogg Avenue is a major east-west thoroughfare that is finally complete after nearly two decades of construction. That long ago Kellogg was a distant cousin to the Hatman and a postmaster in Wichita.

In 1922, the Kellogg family opened a feed store a few blocks from where Jack would eventually open his hat store. At age 15, he began working in a dry cleaner, where he learned about the proper care of hats.

By 18, he had opened a hat shop with a friend and a few years later, Hatman Jack’s was born.

Jack loves movies and loves Humphrey Bogart’s hats. The entire “Indiana Jones” series was a great boost for the hat business.

But no movie or TV show has ever had the influence on the profession as has the current show “Yellowstone” starring Kevin Costner. Jack and team have created hats for characters in that show, as well as a dozen more movies and TV shows.

Jack was awarded 2022 Retailer of the Year by The Headwear Association. His shop in Wichita is the third largest hat shop in the U.S.

Make It a Getaway

You might as well spend a day or two in Wichita flaunting your new hat. Consider the Home2 Suites in the Delano district as your base. It is within sight of Hatman Jack’s, the riverfront baseball stadium, home of the Wichita Wind Surge and a couple of great restaurants. The Keeper of the Plains, whose nightly lighting on the Arkansas River is an event, is also within walking distance.

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