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Desert Companion

Brimming With Creativity

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Joey Newell
Portrait by Christopher Smith

Joey Newell’s handmade hats are really taking off

Frustrated that he could never find a hat that fit properly, Joey Newell decided to take matters into this own hands — literally. He apprenticed at local hatmaker D Bar J and, before long, the professional photographer was making hats for himself. Today, he’s an expert who uses vintage methods from the days of the Wild West to create custom, handmade hats for a growing roster of clients.

It’s a complex process. After the customer selects from among 40 styles and 31 colors, Newell blasts rabbit or beaver felt with steam, and pulls the material over one of 12 different head blocks. Then he irons and presses the brim, sands the felt, and sprays it with an alcohol solution to solidify the design.

The final step is dramatic: He sets the hat on fire for a distressed look. To finish, he sews in the sweatband and lining, which is often a client’s vintage T-shirt or a fabric swatch of their choice. The band is usually velvet or grosgrain sourced from France, but clients frequently give Newell items like a relative’s tie or necklace to personalize the hat. The result: a truly one-of-a-kind lid. Check out more of his work at joeynewellhats.com.

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FLOWER POWER

FLOWER POWER

“This one I made for my mom, and the second hat I made this year. I used a flower fabric for both the band and the inside liner. The other hats I made for her were really clean and traditional, which is why I distressed it. I almost burned the whole hat when the flower fabric went up in flames. On the back, there’s a burn mark that adds to the character of the hat.”

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LOVE U, GIRL

LOVE U, GIRL

“The color of this hat is called ‘crystal mist’ — I made this one for my girlfriend. She wanted a distressed fedora with a shorter pencil curl brim. I let her distress the hat because she wanted to rough it up.”

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MY PINK PAL

MY PINK PAL

“I made this one for my friend Daniel, a music producer, who helped make music for Khalid. The other hats I made for him were black and white, but I had a vintage French velvet ribbon that popped against the pink color.”

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BURGUNDY BEAT

BURGUNDY BEAT

“The burgundy is my personal favorite. My friend is a drummer, and he said he wanted a hat just like mine, but this one didn’t fit him. I fitted and made him an almost-identical hat that was a little more distressed, with a three-inch ribbon. I took this hat with me to Paris earlier this summer.”

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