How to Make a Porkpie Hat

In the words of Buster Keaton…

In those days, almost every comedian you saw affected a derby hat. Even Harold Lloyd, when he was playing his Lonesome Luke character in 1917, wore a derby – which he later deserted for his signature straw hat and horn-rimmed glasses. So I decided to get a hat that was my very own. I knew straw was too fragile for my kind of antics, so I chose felt and designed this particular porkpie.

I took a good Stetson and cut it down, then I stiffened the brim with sugar water.

My recipe calls for three heaping teaspoons of granulated sugar in a teacup of warm water.

You wet the top and bottom of the brim, and then smooth it out on a clean, hard surface and let it dry to a good stiffness.

I did the earliest ones myself, always – and then I trained my wife. Now she does them for me.

In the old days, the Stetsons cost me $3.50 each- I pay $12.50 for the same one now. It gets to be expensive – as I’ve used up thousands of them through the years.

In the first place, I used to do more water stuff – stunts where I got dumped into water – than most comedians. And felt disintegrates if you get it wet enough! So the mortality was high. I was lucky if I only used half a dozen in each picture. Then people want them for souvenirs – they snatch them off my head, so I have to have extras on hand. Then, when I started making feature pictures, they showed them at the biggest city theaters, and always had all the usherettes wearing my porkpie hats – somehow I never had one returned to me!