Visit Harlem on any given Sunday morning and you’ll see colorful and over-the-top church hats on every avenue and street. Rivaling those on view at the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue, these hats were meant to get God’s attention with a dizzying array of ribbons, fabric feathers and whatnots. It’s wearable art, Harlem style, and today we will take you to five hat stores
Harlem’s Heaven, now in its 26th year, is not only the oldest hat shop in Harlem, but is also the oldest Black-owned independently run clothing store in Harlem. Owned by Evetta Petty, Harlem’s Heaven hats are the darling of the church-hat community spanning generations. Her clients are worldwide and her hand-made creations have even been on exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design as part of the Global Africa Project. They come in every size and shape and if you don’t see what you’re looking for, she will make it for you. What’s hot in Heaven right now? Evetta will tell you the Red Hat Collection.
Hats by Brunn is another of the well-established original hat shops in Harlem. Master milliner, Mr. Brunn will tell you to buy your hat first and the outfit to go with it is merely an accessory. His shops’ wide widows on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, near 135th Street, are an ever-changing seasonal display hard to resist for anyone passing by.
On the second Sunday of every July, Hats by Brunn sponsors a sidewalk fashion event with his models from the members of the community. All participants are wearing a hat and dressed to match. Photos from past events grace the walls of his shop.
The men on the arms of these women are equally dapper and so there will be no shortage of patrons for the welcome new addition to Harlem, The Flamekeepers Hat Club located on Frederick Douglass Blvd near 121st Street.
Here we found a beautiful display ranging from casual to elegant. Owner Marc Willliamson has worked in the business for 20 years in other parts of the city. Attracted to Harlem’s energy and sense of style, he opened his own shop in Harlem last year.
It appears that the gentrifyers have not only embraced the tradition of hats, but have been active participants in all things ‘hats’ including the Kentucky Derby parties started by Ristorante Settepani three years ago, and joined by the Red Rooster and Corner Social last year.
Shatzi Life, the newest of the hat shops, is a reflection of the young families moving to the area. Here you will find not only hats for women and men, but also adorable handmade children’s hats, vest, gloves and scarfs. Owned by Abby Sever and Leah Devde, Shatzi Life opened their doors on 116th Street between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. Each one of these shops is already thinking about their Spring and Summer collections.
Aside from the actual retail hat shops, Harlem has been the home to Rod Keenan New York Millinery Studio for many years. His studio is located in his sumptuous brownstone he calls The Castle. His hats are found in such premier retailers around the world as Barney’s, Paul Smith and Harvey Nichols to name just a few. His client list is equally impressive and his studio is open by appointment only.
Come on over to Harlem and hear some Gospel. But don’t forget your hat.
Get in touch with the author at AFineLyne.