The Black Hat Makes the Man

When it comes to accessories, few things define a man more than the hat he wears. And nowhere
is that truer than in the charedi world. The hat a charedi man chooses not only defines him, it also wordlessly announces where he belongs and what he believes; it marks him as a member of a very distinct
group. Although all the hats come in shades of black, there are styling details that, albeit subtle
and almost imperceptible to the untrained, are what makes a man pick one hat over the other.

Bizness spoke to Yonah Fuchs, founder of Fuchs Hats, to find out more about the industry…

Reb Yonah, how did you first become involved in the hat industry?
Almost 40 years ago, I was investigating different possibilities for parnassah, when some relatives
who owned a hat factory in Tel Aviv offered to bring me in as a partner. I happily accepted!

Had you ever had any experience in manufacturing hats?

Absolutely none. But I am a willing learner, and within a short time, I became knowledgeable in all areas of hat production and manufacture. I was fascinated by just how muchwork goes into making a hat; all the different components, techniques and materials. I really appreciated the process and was very proud of
the final product we produced.

What aspect of the business most attracted you?
Although I found the daily functioning of the factory fascinating, my real strength lay in two areas: my belief that we were manufacturing superb hats and my, if I may say so, excellent people skills. I decided to merge the two and become a sales rep for our company.
Within a few short months, many stores around Israel were selling Fuchs hats, and we were receiving great feedback from both the owners and their customers. Fuchs hats were quickly gaining a solid reputation for style, comfort and durability.

What happened to the factory?
In 1984, we decided to open our own hat shop in Bnei Brak. We soon realized that the potential for growth was no longer in the manufacturing sector but in sales.
We started to phase out production, while at the same time, we began to source hats from all over the world that met the high standards we had set for our own hats.

Where did you import the hats from?
We spent a long time searching; we traveled extensively and rejected many manufacturers along the way. In the end, we found the hats we were looking for, the hats that we would be proud and confident to sell to our customers, in several different countries. We began importing from Poland, Spain, Portugal, Czech
Republic, Hungary and China.
Our clients reacted very positively to the hats we were bringing in and our customer base expanded
exponentially. People were traveling from all over Israel to purchase our hats, so we decided to branch out to other cities: Jerusalem, Kiriyat Sefer and Beit Shemesh.

What are some of the brands you sell?
Up until 10 years ago we were selling Borsalino, but eventually we decided to bring in some lesser known brands whose quality was as good, if not better. Now, our top brands are Mondial and Berliando. We also sell hats from Ricardo and Da-Vinci, among others. All these brands exceed our high standards for comfort and durability and they run the gamut in terms of styles and specific detailing.

Styles? Aren’t all the hats you sell basically the same?
Not at all! First, there are the styles that are dictated by the fashion of the day, or as people
like to say, what’s “in”; one year it’s a certain rim, the next year it’s a ribbon with a small bow and
the following season, it’s a deeper indentation. Then there are the hats worn by specific religious
sects. We sell hats that have the structure, rim width and detailing specific to, say, chassidim
or litvaks. We are happy to offer a wide selection to our clients and to cater to their specific
needs. Under special circumstances, we also do custom orders.

What are the hats you sell made of and does the material influence the price?

All the materials come from natural sources; the most popular are rabbit fur and hare fur. Hare fur is softer because it’s from a wild animal.
The material definitely influences the price of the hat, but the quality is never compromised.
For example, we sell a sheep’s wool hat from Ricardo for the very reasonable price of 150 shekels which is of superior quality to anything at that price point at other retailers. At the other end of the spectrum, we have a hat made of blended beaver and rabbit fur that sells for upwards of 800 shekels. However, just because a hat is more expensive it doesn’t mean it’s better quality. In fact, some of our economy brands even last longer than an expensive Borsalino!

How long should a hat last?
With proper care and maintenance like dry cleaning and reshaping—which we can provide—hats can last anywhere from a year to three years.

Tips to make hats last longer:
1. Don’t let your hat get wet or excessively dusty.
2. Keep the hat away from small children (no playing dress-up with Tatty’s hat!).
3. Store the hat in its box to preserve its shape.
4. Unless it’s a very small spot, never try to clean your hat yourself.

What do you love most about your job?
My favorite part is helping a client find the perfect hat they will feel good in and wear with pride. Whether it’s a bar mitzvah boy choosing his very first hat or a chosheve Rav looking to replace his, we treat all our customers with the attention and respect they deserve!

Chagai 16, Jerusalem: 02-5002930
Rashi 12, Bnai Brak: 03-5790970
Sdei Hemed 29, Modiin Ilit: 08-9477305
Nahal Sorek 31,
Ramat Beit Shemesh A: 02-5699974

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