Eric Musgrave

Since 1980, menswear & fashion retail commentator, opinionated thought-leader,
event host & all-round top bloke. Contact me to discuss working together.

Want to get ahead?

Want to get ahead? Get a hat! So ran the tag line of an advertisement for the long-gone menswear chain Dunn & Co. On a recent visit to James Lock, Hatters in St James’s Street, London, I tried out a 150-year-old apparatus called a conformateur that is used to measure one’s head size and shape.

Involving 48 flexible ebony arms, this remarkable device establishes the shape of a one’s skull. When the contraption is gently pushed down on to one’s head, the ebony arms, each of which is like an inverted L-shape, are pushed outwards. This movement determines the position of sharp points on the end of each arm. These points puncture a circle of points on to a piece of paper at the top of the conformateur, so the circle represents the outline that determines the hat’s fitting, as shown below.

Once the paper pattern has been cut out, it is placed in another flexible apparatus called a brow. On this another set of movable pegs is fitted around the piece of paper, therefore following exactly the shape of one’s head. The rigid hat in question is then adjusted to the correct profile using steam in the case of a felt top hat or a bowler.

Pic by Andy Barnham of billionaire.com

I am assured that my head size is 60cm or 7 3/8ins. Fascinating stuff. 

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