Craft / January 2018

Lock & Co. Hatters' Storied Heritage

As one of the world’s oldest family-owned businesses, famed British hatmaker Lock & Co. has a strong reputation – and its bastions are proudly committed to upholding it.

Lock & Co.'s grey felt and fur fedora in issue 38 of The Rake. Photograph by Thomas Lavelle.

Founded in 1676, Lock & Co. is the world’s oldest hat shop and among the longest-lasting family-owned businesses in existence. “First and foremost, being a family-owned business brings a strong sense of commitment and duty,” says Roger Stephenson, Deputy Chairman at Lock & Co. “Being a seventh-generation family member, I feel an obligation to the business to pass the brand on in good health and ensure the DNA and heritage are protected for the next generation.”

This custodian quality, Stephenson says, is also felt by the other board and family members, who want to maintain the prestige of being the world's 34th-oldest family-owned business. "Especially when coupled with us holding two royal warrants, for which I am personally the grantee.” In stewarding the business into the future, Stephenson says, “For me, it’s about Lock’s long-term outlook and ensuring we stride forward with determined continuity.”

In recent years, the company has maintained a contemporary footing via collaborations with brands including A Bathing Ape, Nicole Fahri, Turnbull & Asser, Mackintosh, Vivienne Westwood, and Todd Snyder, and will soon launch mash-ups with Orlebar Brown and The Rake x Vitale Barberis Canonico. While most hat shapes remain in the old-school mould, each season, Lock & Co. will experiment with new fabrications and compositions.

Two good examples of this dedication to classically-styled forward-thinking are the St James's fedora, made from 90 percent beaver and 10 percent mink fur felt (Lock & Co. is the first British hatter to offer this blend), and the new Dover watch cap, created in conjunction with the Harris Tweed Authority. Another is the Watchman beanie, a recent collaboration with Scottish cashmere specialists Johnstons of Elgin that’s been sported by the likes of Guy Ritchie and menswear model Richard Biedul. You can’t plan for the future without knowing the past, as they say, and while certainly moving with the times, Lock remains justly reverential of its history. Marketing manager Hannah Rigby details a few highlights from Lock’s 341 years in operation. “In the 17th century, our shop was founded by the entrepreneurial Robert Davis, who had the foresight to open in the increasingly fashionable West End. The proximity to the Royal Palaces and aristocratic residences made St James’s Street an ideal location to start a hat shop, serving politicians, royals, the military and household staff alike,” Rigby explains.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.