We asked Alex how it all started:
"I had an elegant sailboat which I called ‘Karmananda’, but I needed a hat to go with it. In 1980 there were no such hats available. None!
So, knowing nothing about hat making, I decided to oversee the making of a ‘proper’ hat as a midwinter’s hobby-project, one in keeping with the beauty of my sailboat. I figured that other Toronto sailors needed one too.
It took three months to arrive at the prototype stage. Because the Hat was so costly to hand-craft, I never thought it would sell in a store, and that it would always remain a hobby.
But by selling them at numerous boat shows in my early days, I learned that people would pay for quality."
We’re often asked, “What does it take to make a Tilley hat?”
Most folks already know they’re handmade. But it takes more than one pair of hands to usher a legendary Tilley hat into the world. In all, it takes 23 pairs of hands. 23 highly trained, skilled and caring craftspeople to follow a process first conceived by sailor Alex Tilley in 1980 and then thoughtfully and continually refined over the following decades.
In all, those 46 hands follow 41 steps, a precise and practised process that begins with cutting cotton and foam canvas and ends with steaming and packing the flawless final product. In between, we’re busy joining, binding, lining, stitching and adding those essential signature details that distinguish a Tilley hat from all others.
Guaranteed for life, an iconic Tilley hat fits low and loose, floats, hides a secret pocket and blocks 98% of the sun's harmful rays. Proudly made in Canada and designed to endure whatever the world can throw at it, a Tilley hat is more, though, than simply a lightweight, practical, durable, reliable, stylish travel essential. It’s history on your head.