Robb Report Vices

Dress to Impress in New Orleans

Mardi Gras fashion is all about masks and, to a lesser extent, beads. That’s all well and good for Fat Tuesday, but for every other day of the year, New Orleans couture is decidedly less ostentatious. Given the city’s penchant for jazz, it should come as no surprise that New Orleans also embraces a classic, Roaring Twenties style. For men, that decade’s fashion was centered around the hat, and at Goorin Brothers—a hat purveyor with locations in the French Quarter and on Magazine Street—classically styled hats are the specialty. “New Orleans is pretty rich in hat history,” says Kevin Doyle, the French Quarter store’s general manager. “You’ve got all these old cats walking around in beautiful, handmade hats—tall crowns and wide brims, the real classic hats. People walk around in this town in these classic hats and they wear them well.”

According to Ben Goorin, the company’s president and CEO, summer and winter each bring about 300 new styles, but every Goorin store (there are now close to 30 across the United States and Canada) includes a variety of styles unique to its region. For example, the 1,100-square-foot shop in the French Quarter, which opened in an early-19th-century townhouse in 2011, offers a more diverse selection of wide-brimmed, panama-style hats than other stores around the country. Inventories may be unique from location to location, but the company’s old-fashioned philosophy imbues every store, as evidenced by the French Quarter shop’s service bar. “We want customers to settle in for a minute and see what they come around to,” says Doyle. “It’s a consultation, really. You’re getting them to conjure up an image of them in the hat during their day-to-day lives.”

That laid-back approach not only reflects the company’s desire to match a customer with just the right hat; it also echoes the type of customer service that once was present in most specialty boutiques and that Goorin Brothers aims to bring back. “We’re harkening back to a different era when you could go in and they custom-made your hat,” Doyle says. “We’re creating an atmosphere where it feels like you’re stepping back in time a little bit.”