This month a Louisiana hat-maker relocated his custom-made hat shop from New Orleans’ Magazine Street to the heart of downtown Lafayette in an attempt to reconnect with his cajun roots, as reported in an Advocate feature.
Colby Hebert, the owner of The Cajun Hatter, is relocating his shop to Jefferson Street so that he can connect with the culture that inspires a bulk of his commissioned orders. The decor of this new location, found on the main thoroughfare of Lafayette, Louisiana’s downtown scene, is aptly decorated with artifacts of Cajun culture at every turn. From the antique room divider in the front parlor space to the moss-laden accenta pieces, reminiscent of a swamp tour, the small Acadiana shop is definitively cloaked in the Acadian style.
Hebert moved his shop to its third location since starting the business; previously The Cajun Hatter had been located in New Iberia and Magazine Street in New Orleans. Hebert identified for The Advocate’s Julia Guilbeau that he felt as if he was doing something wrong by contributing to the legacy of his culture while being two and a half hours apart from it all.
Hebert had said that when in New Orleans, he “was working so hard and in so many ways not only to help with Cajun preservation but also just to step into that Cajun identity that I have in every way. It was at the point where I’m like, I can’t do this anymore and not be here in my culture and directly contributing to my culture.”
From a young age, Colby Hebert, a New Iberia native, was interested in hats as a fashion accessory and always found that he wanted to try his hand at creating something unique and bold in design. He began this journey as a hat collector, inspecting each piece and trying to understand the finer details involved in each hat’s construction. This natural curiosity soon led to Hebert making custom hats whether in his free time or as a part of his profession as a costume designer in the film industry.
From this experience in outfitting actors, Hebert began to see fashion not from the traditional perspectives of a wearer or an observer- but from that of a maker. Soon after departing from the film industry, he opened up a hat shop in New Iberia before later moving to New Orleans, and now Lafayette.
Back in Acadiana, Hebert remarked on the great opportunity he has with his business now by stating, ““we have a great thing here that a lot of people argue is dying out. Being here in that pivotal moment where we start to decide how we want to redefine culture here makes me feel good.”
As expected, each product made in The Cajun Hatter comes personally-crafted, as Hebert makes almost all of his hats by hand, using mainly wooden tools and decades-old traditional techniques of past haberdashers. In fact, the only “real machinery” used are his steamer and iron. Due to the notable quality of the materials, his prices begin at $400, covering the personalization of the product.
In true cajun-country fashion, the hats are being made with beaver, or more recently, felt nutria fur, which is such high quality that it’s likely to outlive the wearer. Hebert notes that nutria are quite an overpopulated species in Louisiana that continue to contribute to coastal erosion, so by using their fur, less overall waste is created.
“You want to make something that is sustainable, lasting and not something that is going to be material or consumer waste,” Hébert said. “[Customers] have chosen a type of fur that creates such a high quality felt that it might outlive you. It might outlive your children.”
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