Hut Falkenhagen in Hamburg – The head outfitters

Just a few minutes from the town hall in Schauenburger Straße is the Hamburg hat store run by the Falkenhagen family. The façade and interior look modern, yet we are dealing with a traditional store. It was founded in 1916 by Anna Falkenhagen. The first store was located in Schanzenstraße, and in 1934 another was opened on Valentinskamp. Hans, the founder’s son, took over the store in Schanzenstraße. Grandsons Sünke and Uwe stood behind the counter in the store on Valentinskamp. In 1972, Hut Falkenhagen moved to Bleichenbrücke, and in 1979 to Johannisstraße, very close to the town hall.

Hut Falkenhagen moved to its current location in 2014. This is the fifth location in 102 years. Sabine and Jens Falkenhagen are the 4th generation to wear the hat when it comes to headgear. The two are great-grandchildren of the founder Anna. They offer a wide range of hats, caps and caps in the store. What is not on the shelf or in stock can usually be obtained. If, exceptionally, this does not work or the customer’s request is very unusual, it can be fulfilled in the company’s workshop. Hats and caps are also repaired, altered or cleaned there.

Hats and caps are no longer as important today as they were in 1916, when the first store was founded. Nevertheless, headgear has remained important. The meaning has changed from a mandatory accessory to a stylistic freestyle. Unless the hat or cap simply fulfills a practical purpose, e.g. as protection from rain, sun, wind or frost. How the purpose is fulfilled is again a question of fashion or style. The waxed fabric hat is just as effective against the rain as the nylon bucket hat, while light-colored fabric is just as effective in the sun as the woven palm straw of the Panama hat.

When we visit Falkenhagen, there is a big rush. One customer tries on classic felt hats, another is shown sun hats. Another customer is waiting for his beret, which has just been widened in the workshop. It still needs to cool down a little after treatment with steam. Jens Falkenhagen explains that the typical French headgear shrinks a little over time due to the body heat that the head radiates. This is quite normal and can be remedied. While the beret continues to cool, the milliner works on a trilby, replacing the trimming. A customer who inherited the hat from her father would like to have the brown silk ribbon hatband replaced with a green satin one.

A new customer enters the store, looking for initial letters for the sweatband of his hat. Jens Falkenhagen goes into the workshop and takes out the selection of letters. They are made of very thin sheet metal and sorted alphabetically. Unfortunately, not all letters are available and the supplier no longer exists. But the customer is lucky, there are still the right letters for his first name and surname. They are attached to the hatband using a small special tool. This gives the hat an individual touch, but originally the initial letters were primarily intended to prevent confusion. There used to be so many hats hanging in the wardrobe that it was easy to miss the mark

At the end, Jens Falkenhagen shows us another flea market find: a Homburger made of the finest hair felt, with the print on the inside of the hat identifying it as a product of the house. Jens Falkenhagen cannot say exactly when it was made and sold. But he is probably 50 or 60 years old. “It’s almost impossible to get hair that fine these days,” explains Jens Falkenhagen. “Except for us,” he adds with a wink. And shows us some top qualities from the range. They cost a little more, of course, but they also last a very long time. Provided you look after them a little and make sure they are handled correctly. “Please don’t touch the top of the hat when you put it on or take it off, it’s better to use both hands on the brim,” explains the expert. Over the years, the fabric can wear out and a hole can appear. This can be patched up, but it doesn’t have to happen in the first place.