Special to The Sopris Sun
Pa Fig, hat-shaper, has laid hands on more than 10,000 hats for clients all over the world. Discretion prohibits mention of his more notable customers, but Carbondale’s crowned heads are quietly finding their way to Pa’s stand, which he sets up around town when crowds or the occasion warrant.
The finest cowboy hats are made of fur felt, rated according to the percentage of beaver fur therein. On a ranch, a hierarchy of hats might prevail, with the rancher perhaps wearing 100 percent beaver and bestowing accordingly, higher quality hats on worthy hands.
Fig will work on hats made of fur or wool felt as well as palm and straw. His tools are a high quality steamer and brushes, and more importantly, practiced eyes and hands. Steam opens fibers, allowing them to be molded. As the hat cools, fibers close up, holding their new shape, cleaned and strengthened in the process.
A hat is creased and shaped according to the individuality of a client’s head, face and style. Crowns may be shaped, brims cut and stains removed. The hat shaper is essentially working with a circle, thus the final line of a hat’s brim needs to flow flawlessly, complimenting the face in style and function.
Fig is one of the top hat-shapers in the country. “I would compete anytime and take No. 1 as best I could,” he states in a laconic drawl. He charges a $10 flat rate to clean, shape and refurbish a hat, which can be a priceless value here in Carbondale. It’s a service not available at many fancy hat stores.
As a terminal case of East-Coast dude, this writer has wisely avoided wearing a cowboy hat outside the bedroom. After meeting Fig, however, I acquired a used hat at First Class Trash in Glenwood Springs. It looked more like road-kill than a hat. “You buy a hat like that, you get a free bowl of soup,” Pa said upon first being introduced to my distinctive headwear.
He was able to resurrect its innately decent fur felt, creating a handsome and useful hat. The elegant helix of its brim’s edge perfects the imperfect loop of a fly cast. Now, on the Roaring Fork, I sense subtle improvement in my cast and a definite lift in attitude under its artful crease and shape.
Fig said he enjoys meeting his clients — and their hats. In their brand, quality and color are new experiences and distinct opportunities for improvement.
“Every single, solitary individual hat (regardless) takes its own specific amount of steam and finger pressure to achieve its exact detail, without over-burdening. Comprehension, application and acclamation of these facets are what separate a mere hat shaper from a great one. This understanding takes years of constant, hands-on work. That is what I’m proud to do.”
Pa Fig, 33, said he takes his name from his two daughters’ frequent, affectionate cries and an amalgam of his and his wife’s last names. They live up Cattle Creek.
Keep an eye out for him around town and don’t forget your hat.
Or, feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also track him down on Facebook at Pa Fig-Hat Shaper.