Olney Genuine Panama Straw Hat Sienna Brisa SM162Olney
The Panama is fashioned from hoods handwoven in Ecuador using fibres from the paja torquilla; a quality, classic statement making hat for the summer.
Head wear manufacturers, Olney Headwear Ltd, are based in Old Bedford Road, Luton, which has been the centre of hat making in the United Kingdom for nearly three hundred years, and for a 100 years the name of Olney has been synonymous with the production of a large range of quality head wear predominately for men, but as the company expanded, the range has grown to include ladies, uniform, and industrial hats and caps.
The Olney family story began in 1914, when with a world war looming Albert Olney then aged 37 left his secure job as a foreman blocker with Horace Slade & Sons, the largest producer of straw boaters in the country at St.Albans, Hertfordshire, to start his own business. He would have undoubtedly been very proud that one hundred years later his great grandsons would be the fourth generation of the family carrying on the business and producing quality head wear that has always been the hallmark of the company.
It should not come as a surprise that Albert decided to take up hat manufacturing as both his grandfather Thomas, born in Westoning Bedfordshire in 1827, and father, Frederick, were employed in the hat industry as a straw plait bleacher and blocker respectively.
Albert moved to Luton and bought premises in York Street, and with cash in short supply set about installing the plant himself, some of which was still in use when the company vacated the premises in 1975 to move to a larger and more effi cient factory which the company still occupies to this day. In 1928 as the company had grown there was a need for new investment, so shares were issued and the company became a Limited company with share capital.
The company then began producing their trademark item which was a straw boater with the trademark ‘The York Straw Hat’ featuring York Minster as its logo. Although the straw boater was the primary product of the company it obviously needed to diversify, this came about as the boater was being worn by Public Schools, including Harrow, Windsor and Eton. So school uniform hats became an important part of the company sales, panama and straw hats for the summer and velour and felt for the winter. This led to an export boom to the then British colonies principally, South Africa, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) and other African markets, and also to the West Indies.
As the company prospered Albert asked his brother Tom to join the company as manager and later at the incorporation as a Director. As the company was using large quantities of ribbon and braid Albert decided to take on an agency from J.H. vom Baur & Son of Ronsdorf in Germany, this agreement was very successful until a tariff was imposed on German goods entering the United Kingdom, however, not to be deterred it was agreed that a joint venture should be set up and a manufacturing base built in England.
This duly happened in 1933 and a factory was built at St. Albans and The British Ribbon Company was formed with a joint board of English and German directors. Two of the German company’s senior employees took up residence in St. Albans and Albert’s eldest son Harold joined the company and was immediately sent to Germany to study the production methods.