The Indiana Jones Fedora
The specifications for the actual hat Ford wore are reportedly as follows:
Size: 7 ¼ (size 58 European)
Crown: 5 ½ (5.5) inches
Brim (front & back): 2 ¾ (2.75) inches
Brim (sides): 2 5/8 (2.625) inches
Ribbon: 1 ½ (1.5) inches (39mm)
Indiana Jones Fedora History
The fedora worn by Indiana Jones is one of the most well known and recognizable fedoras in the world. The hat is as iconic as the character it was created for.
When conceiving the character of Indiana Jones, George Lucas envisioned his appearance to resemble some of the heroes who adorned the screen, both big and small, when he was growing up. Films like "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" and "Secret of the Incas" along with television shows like "Charlie Chan" and "Spy Smasher," would inspire the character and costume of what would become, Indiana Jones.
Deborah Nadoolman, costume designer on Raiders of the Lost Ark worked closely with Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford to give the Indiana Jones fedora its own character and breath of individuality. Nadoolman has said, "I had to have a hat that if you saw it in silhouette would be immediately recognizable". After many attempts they settled on a fedora from the Herbert Johnson Hat Company of Saville Row, London, a high-end hatter to the Royal family.
There have always been conflicting reports as to the exact model chosen to become the Indiana Jones fedora. Nadoolman is quoted as saying, "I saw a hat with a very wide brim and the crown was a little bit too high. It was their Australian model and with a couple of fittings, we got the hat right for Harrison".
Richard Swales, who was manager at Herbert Johnson and fitted Ford for the original Raiders fedora's has stated adamantly in the past that it was the "Poet" model which was chosen in the end and has since been touted as the actual fedora worn by Harrison Ford in the films, although Herbert Johnson has never sold them under the official Indiana Jones license. The Poet had been a part of the Herbert Johnson line-up for some time and remains so to this day.
At the core of the Poet was a high quality rabbit felt from Cury, a hat factory out of Brazil. Cury would ship raw felt bodies to Herbert Johnson where they would then go through the precise, old world method of creating a finely crafted top shelf fedora.
The distinctive look of the Indiana Jones fedora is the result of many, many elements that must come together to create the final product. It's surprising how much went into the development of one fedora but each individual piece is just as important as the next. Like a recipe, you need each of them present to get the desired look. Missing one or more of those elements will quite noticeably throw off the look.
Alas, the secret of the fedora's identity was not so easily given up to the public and all of the remaining costumes were either locked away in the LucasFilm Archives or in the possession of Bermans and Nathans costumers. Years of relentless effort to find the exact fedora by a few interested parties after Raiders' release finally bore fruit. One gentleman in particular, Steve Ferguson, was credited with finding the source of the Indiana Jones fedora.
At some point in the mid to late 1980s, Ferguson came in contact with Lee Keppler who had also been hard at work on extensive research into the Indiana Jones costume. Keppler was then made aware of the Herbert Johnson fedora and began sub-contracting them for fans in the back of the Star Wars fan club magazine, among other found pieces of the Indiana Jones costume.
Not long after the discovery of Herbert Johnson and the overwhelming popularity of the Indiana Jones franchise, several official Indiana Jones fedoras hit the market, including the Dorfman Pacific, the Bollman, Bailey and Stetson hats. After Stetson allowed the Indiana Jones license slip away, the contract was soon picked up by Broner, who sold the hats in several retail stores under the Stetson name. All were sub-par hats against the Herbert Johnson but the low cost of these new additions made them accessible to any level of fan. Since these offerings were licensed they could be purchased through the Star Wars Fan Club magazine as well as several costume shops and retailers. Still, those wanting “the” Indy fedora would sacrifice the time and money to purchase a prized Herbert Johnson. However, changes at Herbert Johnson in materials and construction quality soon created a debate among fans.
Quickly following the release of Raiders, Herbert Johnson underwent a series of in-house changes which included changing the source of the materials used to make the original Raiders fedora. They stopped using Cury as a source of their felt for the Poet and began using another felt supplier of lower quality. At some point the original block used to create the distinct Raiders look was either sold or stored away and a similar, but not identical, block was then used and still is to this day. Fans could immediately recognize the differences and took note. What resulted was a fedora well suited for a Temple of Doom or Last Crusade but not for a Raiders look, despite what they claimed in their marketing. Still, many fans paid and while many were satisfied, some paid the price.
With Herbert Johnson lacking, other higher-than-standard quality hats began to emerge such as the Miller, Gary White and Barron Indiana Jones fedoras. Even though all are quality hats in their own right, all lacked the qualities most desired in a true Raiders style fedora. By this time, IndyGear.com was up and running and some in the Indy Gear community took matters into their own hands.
In every hobby there are periods of discovery and excitement and there are moments of downtime. Although, for the die-hard gearhead, moments of downtime are always kept to a minimum. For many years at IndyGear, several fans tested the waters by purchasing fedoras similar to the Indiana Jones fedora and modifying them in many ways. Some would purchase vintage fedoras or similar offerings, trim down brims and swap out ribbon to get them to look as close as possible to what is seen in the films, some with amazing results. With so many offerings in such a short amount of time though, fans became impatient for something new.
They got it in two offerings: The Peters Brothers custom fedora and the Akubra Federation, both of which required a bit of fan input to get them into production. At this point it was harder than ever to make purchasing decisions and the masses were directed to IndyGear to find the most comprehensive information available on the Indiana Jones fedora. With the welcomed entrance of the Akubra and the Peters Brothers, fans became increasingly more satisfied than in past years, which was basically a testing ground for various hatters and product. Many times this experimentation led to utter frustration. Instead of looking for vintage hats that fit the bill or close-enough substitutions, fans now had several mainstream offerings that fit their need for quality while maintaining a good amount of screen accuracy. One thing remained consistent though, the fans were behind almost every new discovery and innovation at almost every turn.
Even though new hat offerings were coming to light on a faily regular basis, eager fans continued intensive study and research. They sometimes created for themselves and often reached out to others in search of someone to reproduce what is seen on screen. Keppler's early research not long after Raiders premiered paid off for fans with the creation of the Keppler "Indiana Jones Styled Fedora" by Beaver Brand Hats. Fans finally had a fedora that not only had quality construction but an attention to detail which captured the essence of the Raiders of the Lost Ark fedora. The Keppler quickly moved up the ranks and inspired others to seek out companies that could do the same or better.
For years there had been debate by many at IndyGear who claimed the original Raiders fedora was a lighter-weight felt than what was currently being offered. Since nobody had ever been able to closely study an original Raiders of the Lost Ark fedora there was no proof as to the thickness of the hat. One thing was for certain, none of the offerings available at the time reacted the way the fedora did on screen. Many said it was due to the fact that fans had not yet seen a quality, lightweight felt which was similar to the original.
Around this time fans saw the arrival of the Optimo Hat Company who helped confirm the speculations of many gear heads that the Raiders fedora was indeed made using a higher quality, lighter-weight felt than what was being offered at the time. Optimo specializes in lighter-weight felts, which reacted exactly like the hats seen in the film. This was the first time outside of a vintage felt that an Indiana Jones fedora offering could be shaped without the use of steam. Another piece of the Raiders fedora puzzle had been found. Far and away though, the biggest draw to Optimo was the super high quality of their felts and the classic construction of the hats, which hearkened back to the period in which Indiana Jones was set.
Although the colors were not an exact match to the original Raiders fedora, they were close. Another exciting aspect for fans was they could now order hats in a light, medium or heavyweight felt on a block shape that was the closest yet to the block shape used to create the Raiders fedora. After the arrival of Optimo many swore they had now purchased the last Indiana Jones fedora they would ever need. However, because Optimo's price tag is one of the highest of any of the current hat offerings, some argued that the cost is just a bit too much while others rebut that you get what you pay for.
Even though fans now had a much higher quality fedora than at any time in the past, they still wanted access to the original fedora. At this time, Herbert Johnson began outsourcing their fedoras to a German company called Replix who began offering a re-blocked version of the Herbert Johnson fedora for resale. At the time, it was a nice offering since the fedora Herbert Johnson was putting out was far from what was seen on screen on Indiana Jones' head. However, Replix could not source the original, white liner and stuck with the standard black liner which was then being used by Herbert Johnson. Another drawback which quickly came to light was the fact that many members who owned the Replix fedora complained the hats soon began to taper, which was a common occurrence of any Herbert Johnson at the time. After all, it was the same felt. The Replix fedora, which was available for a couple of years, has since been discontinued, but are still found on the secondary market today.
Another rising fan-based company, Todd's Costumes, began selling their own version of the Herbert Johnson fedora. Todd would receive and re-block the hats himself to produce a hat with less taper and a slightly taller crown. The hats would once again be made using the original white Herbert Johnson liner with a red Herbert Johnson logo sticker label, which the purchaser had the option of installing themselves or leaving out. These two new Herbert Johnson offerings were welcomed by most, however the fact remained that the materials used to make a Herbert Johnson, no matter where it was made, were not what they used to be. Around this time, Optimo was the talk of the IndyGear fedora world, but many could not justify paying their asking price for a fedora. This again prompted some eager fans to see what they could do to make an even better hat...and take it a step further.
This time it was Jersey "Ken" Jones who attempted to give the hatmaking trade a turn in 2005. Ken started the Camptown Hat Company and introduced their Model 1936 "Fieldmaster" which was well received by those who purchased them. The Fieldmaster was a well crafted fedora which, like the rest, tried its best to emulate that flair and style created by the Herbert Johnson Poet. This was done again by improving on the quality of the fedora while keeping the price relatively affordable.
Many people were now spoiled by a higher degree of quality and some would not settle for anything less. Not only did fans require a decent fedora to acquire the look of the Indiana Jones fedora, they demanded it must be made of top quality material by serious craftsmen. One longtime IndyGear member and fan with a true, dedicated passion for the Indy hat took this call to heart. What came of it was the arrival of the Adventurebilt fedora, the product of Steve Delk, a man so passionate about the hat worn by Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and so dissatisfied with the hats available to the public, that he taught himself to make hats in his spare time and over more than a few years, recreated the block for the Raiders fedora. Then, he sourced the best beaver felt bodies and the most accurate ribbons, and with his best friend, Marc Kitter, working for customers out of Europe, the AdventureBilt Hat Company was born and, for all intents and purposes, the Raiders hat was resurrected for fans and at a reasonable price. Delk refused to gouge the price tag for his old Indy friends and sold his hats at cost the first few years his company was in business.
At this point vendors really needed to step up their game to keep up in the Indiana Jones fedora market. Another talented fan turned vendor, Jimmy Pierce of JP Designs, put out his own high-quality, pure beaver version of the Indiana Jones fedora. He too had given a lot of time and resources to come up with a version of the Indiana Jones fedora that could stand alone among the current favorites. Although this fedora is relatively new in a long history of Indy fedoras, it has received good reviews and will probably be around for a long time to come. Fans have never had it better. There are so many Indiana Jones fedoras on all ends of the spectrum, with all different levels of quality and craftsmanship. There are so many people, so many true fans who have contributed to the development of all the above hats for the benefit of all.
This relentless dedication led to an amazing turn of events in 2007 when Adventurebilt and Adventurebilt Deluxe reached the pinnacle of fandom. They achieved the ultimate honor of winning the contract to provide all of the hero fedoras worn by Harrison Ford for the reprisal of his most beloved character, after 19 years, in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. When Indiana Jones returns to the big screen in 2008 he'll be sporting an Adventurebilt fedora, made by fans for fans and well enough for Indiana Jones himself. What started out as a hobby for some culminated into a much deserved and honored spot in the pages of film history. This was due in many parts to the years of passionate, meticulous research and work along with countless hours of debate, all of which was done right here at IndyGear.
At the same time Adventurebilt was involved in making the production hats, the Clipper Fedora IndyGear mystery was solved and can be read about in great detail below. Not long after the confirmation of the Clipper Fedora by those involved in the production, yet another bombshell was dropped on the Indygear community. In early 2008 a new member by the name of Desi came forward and revealed that the original “hero” Raiders hat was still in existence and had taken a place of honor in his prestigious film props collection. Another piece of the elusive Raiders fedora puzzle had fallen into place. That amazing tale is chronicled in greater detail here.
As of this writing, Indy fans have never had it better. There are so many Indiana Jones fedoras from all ends of the spectrum and with all different levels of quality and craftsmanship. Due to years of fan-based input we now have many fedora options, from cheap costume knock-offs for the casual fan to pure beaver fedoras made by the same gentlemen who made them for Harrison Ford himself. There are so many people, so many true fans, who have contributed to this legacy for the benefit of all. This is what IndyGear is all about and will continue to strive for into the future.
The Raiders of the Lost Ark Fedoras
The Hero Fedora
The many characteristics attributed to the Raiders of the Lost Ark fedora also make it much different than the fedoras worn in the sequels. The hat has very distinct features starting with the felt. Back in 1980, a Brazilian felt maker named "Cury" was supplying Herbert Johnson with a top quality rabbit felt which they used to make the fedoras for Raiders of the Lost Ark. The material was a floppy, light to medium-weight felt that was reminiscent of felt used on vintage fedoras of the period in which Raiders was set.
When received at Herbert Johnson they named the color "Sable" and used a straight stove-pipe block shape with very little taper on all sides, also reminiscent of the fedoras of the 1930s. The hat was then given a tight, high front pinch and a deep, center bash to complete the crown. The ribbon was slightly tightened, causing it to retain creases. The hat is also slightly "turned" on Harrison Ford's head, which not only moves the ribbon closer to the front of the face, but also gives the brim a very odd but distinct shape. This look can be achieved with any quality hat, but it was these simple features that were employed to create a specific look to the Raiders fedora which makes it stand out even today.
Mr. Swales then topped the hat off by giving it a slight and sloppy dimensional cut to make it seem as though the hat had been on several authentic adventures. The Raiders fedoras were then given to the costume department in new condition and therefore had to be artificially distressed to give them character and a very worn in look. Raiders costume designer Deborah Nadoolman said the hat was crushed, sat on and wrung again and again to get that old, used look we see in the films. This technique caused the tightened ribbon to ride up slightly on the crown, smoothed the transition from the crown to the brim and also cause a slightly distorted reverse taper or "mushroom" effect in the crown above the ribbon. Bleach and costume dust were also added to simulate wear and the natural distressing of a true fedora worn on many adventures. When the hat was ready for filming, Harrison Ford added his own touches to the hat by keeping the front pinch nice and tight and giving the back brim an upwards "swoop" that is one of the many trademarks of the Indiana Jones fedora.
The Gray Clipper Fedora
Very little was known about the fedora worn by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark while on board the Pan Am Clipper and at the end of the film on the Washington steps. To some the hat appears gray and to others it appears a fawny tan. Richard Swales at Herbert Johnson stated that he did indeed make two different colored fedoras for Raiders, one brown and one gray. Although nobody can be truly certain of the exact color, one thing that seems certain is that it is a Herbert Johnson and bears the same unique block shape and characteristics as the brown, hero fedora. There appears to have been no distressing done by the costume department on this fedora as it appears to be in new condition in the film, worn with a suit as a dress hat, not an adventure hat.
To date, no behind-the-scenes footage of the dress fedora from Raiders of the Lost Ark is known to exist and only one personal photograph of Ford wearing the hat behind the scenes has surfaced. Still, one of the longest standing debates in the IndyGear community is over the exact color of this particular fedora worn in only two very short scenes in the film.
For years fans would debate whether the hat, dubbed the "Clipper" fedora, was gray or tan. There were many factors that fueled these debates. First, the filming of the original hat may or may not have included the use of camera filters and multiple lighting sources, both natural and synthetic. The film is then processed in a lab with chemicals, but is still the most pure source for color. Another factor that came in to play was how the movie was being viewed, which could affect color perception. For example, was the movie being screened on television or computer monitor? Both are individually color calibrated making the odds that everyone was seeing the same color incredibly slim. As with the original film stock, the same would then apply to any photograph of the hat itself since chemicals are used to process the film independently, leaving almost no two photos alike from different sources. These are only a few of the talking points of many debates about the Clipper fedora.
To quote Winston Churchill, "It was a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma," and this went on for years. Numerous color charts, several different tan and gray scale sight interpretation charts, theories, best guesses, explanations, determination and segregation...all over the color of this hat.
Mr. Swales always claimed he made a gray fedora for Raiders, but fans began to notice discrepancies in his statements regarding a gray hat, most likely due to the length of time that had passed since hats for the film were purchased. Then, in 2007, confirmation of the color of the Clipper fedora was thankfully corroborated by three key sources: Raiders Costume Designer, Deborah Nadoolman, Assistant Costume Designer, Kelly Kimball, and Steven Spielberg himself. The hat was indeed a shade of gray, and although the location of the hat itself is still not known, the long debate over the color of the hat at IndyGear's Club Obi Wan had finally come to a conclusion. Stock in Mr. Swales memory suddenly went up. All three sources could recall the color of a costume piece from a production they had worked on over 25 years ago. This goes to show that even though the Clipper fedora was to have less than a minute of screen time, it was taken very seriously by those involved in the production.
Even though Raiders was the only film out of the original Indy trilogy to have a non-brown, travel fedora, that would soon change with the arrival of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
The Temple of Doom Fedora
With the incredible success of Raiders, the Indiana Jones fedora was burned into the public consciousness. However, as popular a symbol the Raiders fedora was to the character, the fedora for the sequel would end up looking very different in a variety of ways. The creators of the films obviously wanted to go back to Herbert Johnson to retain continuity for the sequel to Raiders but what ended up on screen diverged from its predecessor.
The Cury felt used to make the Raiders fedora was no longer being used. In its place was a thicker, Borsalino felt which reacted much differently than that of the Raiders fedora. For some unknown reason to this day, Herbert Johnson also ceased using the original block which resulted in a very different look all around. The Temple of Doom fedora they ended up with had a slightly lower crown. Where the Raiders fedora was made with a stove-pipe shaped crown, the Temple had a good amount of taper to it which is immediately noticeable. This fedora also omitted the high tight pinch and instead sported a high, almost un-bashed light pinch. The tack marks on the ribbon were now noticeable as well and since there was no 'turn' present on this fedora the bow sat back above the ear and the brim remained even and undistorted.
The Last Crusade Fedora
After the noticeable differences between the Raiders and Temple of Doom fedoras it was good to see Indy get back to his roots with the fedora made for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Even thought the Temple hat looked terrible when compared to the Raiders, the makers of the films decided to go back to Herbert Johnson for the third installment. This time around, even though the Borsalino felt was about the same as it was for the Temple fedora's, Herbert Johnson used a block-shape similar to the one used for the Raiders fedoras and is the one they continue to use today for their Indiana Jones fedora, the Poet.
The block shape Herbert Johnson used was much more reminiscent of the block used to make the Raiders fedoras, so with the Last Crusade fedora we saw the return of the distinctive hat profile audiences came to know and love. While not as dramatic as the Raiders fedora, the Last Crusade sported a tall, un-tapered crown and more of an un-bashed look with a pinch a little tighter than was seen on the Temple fedora. In addition, the brim appears to be a slightly narrower snap-brim with a more pronounced dimensional cut then on the previous film fedoras. On this hat as with the Temple of Doom, there was no “turn,” but Harrison Ford worked his magic once again and gave the back brim a slight, upwards curl or "swoop" as he had done on the Raiders fedora. This swoop is one of the defining traits that separated Indiana Jones fedoras from all the rest.
The Mystery of the Blues Fedora.
In March 1993, Harrison Ford once again donned the fedora which he made legend for the airing of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles episode, Mystery of the Blues, on ABC television. The series wasn't doing so well and Ford agreed to once again play Indiana Jones in a short, but memorable cameo appearance to give support to boost the shows ratings.
Although the details about the fedora worn in the episode have never surfaced, it's fairly certain from appearance that it was a Herbert Johnson Poet from the production of Last Crusade or soon after. The colors and dimensions of the hat appear to be the same or similar, including the brim and ribbon width, as well as the loose front pinch.
The exception to the Mystery of the Blues fedora is its crown height, which is slightly higher in the back.
Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Fedora
It had been 15 years since Indiana Jones sported his trademark fedora on any screen and the public was eager to see both he and his fedora again. Much had changed in the world of fedoras since the 1980's when the original Indy trilogy premiered. The Internet was now a main factor in many aspects of movie making and with the help of a small community of die-hard Indiana Jones fans, the AdventureBilt Hat Co. was awarded the contract to produce the fedoras for the new film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. AdventureBilt and AdventureBilt Deluxe received an order from the production which would eventually lead them to produce 2 gray "travel fedoras" for Ford, reminiscent of the Clipper hat from Raiders, as well as 48 brown fedoras for Ford and the stuntmen doubling for him. Mr. Pollack was very meticulous in the details he was looking for in the hat, which AdventureBilt was determined to provide. AdventureBilt was using a reverse-engineered hat block which was custom made to perfectly replicate the same distinct crown shape as was present on the Raiders of the Lost Ark fedora. Next to the superior quality AdventureBilt provided, the dead-on accuracy of their Raiders style block was part of the allure for the filmmakers. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fedora used the same crown specs as the Raiders fedora. Mr. Pollack would also require three different crown heights and two different brim widths. Most were a standard 2 3/4" x 2 1/2" brim width with several others requested to have a 2 7/8" x 2 5/8" brim width. The gray travel hats had a 5 3/4" open crown height and used a Last Crusade style block shape as Mr. Pollack wanted it a bit different than the brown, hero fedora, but they did decide to keep the loose front pinch for some continuity.
The Rediscovery Of The Most Famous Hat In History
On March 13, 2008, an IndyGear member came forward with an almost unbelievable story that any true gearhead was waiting to hear since the creation of this Web site. Desi, or “ScreenUsed” as he's known at Club Obi Wan, is a long time high-end prop dealer and collector with solid industry connections. In 2003 he had the opportunity to purchase what he was told was an original Indiana Jones fedora which was used by one of the stuntmen who worked on the films. The story originally relayed to him was a stuntman working on a scene from Raiders had grabbed a fedora out of a box on the set to film his scene. After the scene was completed, he asked if he could keep the hat as a memento and also asked Harrison Ford to sign the sweatband, which Ford did.
From the time it made it's appearance in the films the fedora had traded hands twice until it was obtained by Desi in 2003. Soon after Desi purchased the hat, the Indy trilogy was released on DVD. With a crystal clear print of the film to use for comparison, thanks to Lowry Digital's restoration efforts, Desi now had the best opportunity to try and place where his hat appeared on the screen. While looking for stunt man shots in the film, he started noticing obvious similarities between his new acquisition and the hero fedora which Harrison Ford wears throughout almost the entire production of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It didn't take long before he was certain that this wasn't just the stunt hat he'd been told it was, but THE hero fedora worn by Harrison Ford in Raiders!
With Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull right around the corner, Desi posted pictures of his Raiders fedora at Club Obi Wan to share his good fortune with the largest community of hard core Indy fans in existence. The overall reception was that of elation from excited members who have been waiting to see this hat, the most popular and elusive of all Indy hats…the hat that started it all. The common thought was that the hero fedora was in the hands of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg or Harrison Ford with little chance of ever being seen again by the public. How ironic that it ended up in the hands of a fellow fan who cares deeply about keeping it in as pristine condition as possible and of course, sharing it with the rest of us who care just as deeply.
|Comparison shots showing ScreenUsed's fedora and stills from the film|
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