Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Hat for All Seasons!

With the recent release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, came a tidal wave of Indy related merchandise, most of it fun (I have to track down and retrieve my Indiana Jones' M&M guys from my daughters all the time), some of it cheesy (check my blog for my review of the Indiana Jones Adventure Spoon. I'm not kidding) and some of it is not only valuable to the die-hard Indy fan, but also high quality and functional.

The best example of this is the Indiana Jones Outback (Crushable) Wool Felt Hat by Dorfman Pacific. I think some of the negative reviews of this hat are, partly, due to an inadequate description of the product.

The reason it's called "Outback" is that it intentionally has a full 3 inch brim (as opposed to the Indy standard 2 ½ inch brim.) When Raiders of the Lost Ark was being made, the costume designer, Deborah Nadoolman Landis, had to find the "right look" for what would become the signature trademark of the Indy Franchise. In an interview with, Deborah talks about trying on hundreds of hats, before finding the right one:

"When we found one that could be adapted, crown shortened, brim narrowed, I travelled to Herbert Johnson's hatters in Saville Road to find the model which most closely resembled the one in my hand. They offered an "Australian" model - which, with fiddling, became the Indiana Jones fedora."

This "outback" version restores the full brim, while retaining the shorter crown. And, for me, that actually works better. Don't get me wrong, I love the classic Indy hat (keep reading - I've got every version that you can think of) but if you're actually to go to use this hat for more than the occasional costume party, then you need something more practical and durable. The wider brim is more practical for two reasons: sun and rain. Living in Southern California, the sun is obvious. Given recent attention to the dangers of overexposure to the sun and skin cancer, I'm covering up more these days. The rain is less often but, as the old song says, when it rains, it pours. The "crushable" part of the description means just what it says: you can accidentally sit on this hat and, with only a little straightening out, you can bring it back to near show-room condition.

For an example of this, see the picture I uploaded showing my own Indiana Outback - it has a somewhat battered appearance for good reason: just last Monday I was exploring an ancient Peruvian temple in the pouring rain. Well - sort of. I was at Disneyland riding on the Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye ride!

But it was pouring rain, which had two positive benefits: my family and I practically had the place to ourselves (the longest we waited for any ride was 30 minutes) and my Indiana Outback kept my head warm and dry. Just how crushable this hat is was proven after surviving the Temple. It's a hide-speed roller coaster ride and they warn you to cling tight to any valuables (camera, fedoras, children). In the best Indy tradition I clutched my hat in a death grip and it came out the other end of the ride looking like it had been trampled by a herd of wildebeests! After only a few minutes of pulling and shaping I was ready for our next thrilling adventure (I think it was the Winnie the Pooh ride.) Try that with your wool-felt fedora!

The other "version" of the official licensed fedora I like is the Indiana Jones Men's Weathered Cotton Hat - this one also suffers under inadequate product description. It's not just cloth, its oiled sailcloth, the same material that's been a favorite material in hats and dusters for years, prized by American Cowboys and Australian Drovers for its weather proofing and durability. And the weathering makes it look like leather, so it's slightly dressier that you'd think by looking at the picture.

In addition to the four versions of the Indy fedora you can find on Amazon (there's also the standard Indiana Jones Men's Water Repellent Wool Felt Fedora and the pricier Indiana Jones Fur Felt Fedora), there's two more that you'll have to find elsewhere: the Khaki Safari version and the Straw Panama version. I've uploaded a picture of all five of the official versions, in case you're interested.

Dorfman-Pacific licensed about a zillion retailers to peddle these official licensed versions and so you can find a number of vendors on Amazon offering, essentially, the same hat. Shop around and you may be able to save a few dollars. Just be sure somewhere they mention that it's licensed by Dorfman-Pacific. If you're like me, you could end up spending a lot of dough on hats, you'll want to be sure they're the real deal.

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