When two brothers founded what is now Greeley Hat Works in 1909, they could not have imagined that their company’s hats would someday be worn all over the world. As only the fourth hat maker and owner of Greeley Hat Works, Trent Johnson has put the business on a national and global stage while staying rooted in the Greeley community.
Johnson has always loved hats. On vacation to Epcot Center as a child he brought home hats from every country, rather than the typical souvenirs. “I didn’t choose the hat life. The hat life chose me,” Johnson says of his vocation.
Johnson apprenticed at Greeley Hat Works for 3.5 years while attending The University of Northern Colorado, then bought the business after graduating in 1995. When Johnson bought the company, they made 120 hats a year. Now, the enterprise fills over 6,000 orders annually. Sustainable growth is important to Johnson, “The two things that have helped us grow are our commitment to quality and our customer service. If you scale too fast, those are the first things to go.”
That commitment to keeping a small business feel has brought Greeley Hat Works to the attention of a wide range of clients. In 2002, Johnson had the opportunity to build a hat for President George W. Bush. The President then asked Johnson to build hats as gifts for foreign dignitaries, including President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.
Johnson and his team have built hats for celebrities, politicians, movies, and TV shows. Few of their clients include Jimmy Fallon, Pink, Toby Keith, Arnold Schwarzenagger, Aaron Rogers, and the cast of the popular TV series Yellowstone.
Greeley Hat Works creations are literally worn all over the world. However, that hasn’t changed Johnson’s passion for his Colorado roots. “Yes, we build hats for movies and famous people, but the cattlemen and women—they are our bread and butter. The sweat in their hats is their badge of honor in feeding America and the world.”
The craft of hat-making hasn’t changed much over the last 100 years; machines purchased by the founders in 1909 are still in use at the shop. But Johnson loves more than the technical, multi-step process of custom hat-making, which involves measuring, material and style selection, and shaping. “My favorite part of the process is working with the customer as a designer. The most important thing about being a designer is being a good listener,” Johnson commented. He takes pains to understand the client’s needs, style, and face shape to design the perfect hat. “I don’t just build hats. I build dreams.”
From presidents to ranchers and everyone in between, Greeley Hat Works creates personalized hats for people worldwide, delivered with a small-town feel.