It was not until 1960 that any new machinery was brought in to the company when a French machine and fabric to mould synthetic hats was acquired, primarily to manufacture men’s summer hats, but ironically the men’s hats did not sell well but it was found that large quantities of white hats were being taken up as hygiene headwear in the food industry and for supermarkets. As the company already had an existing market supplying straw boaters to the butchery market this was an ideal entry in to a new market.
It was during this time that Michael was appointed production director and was given the go ahead to modernise production. A visit to Italy resulted in the first automatic hydraulic hat blocking presses being imported from Michelagnoli of Signa, Firenze marking the start of a large scale investment programme to update production.
Hand trimming largely died out with the introduction of tacking machines, and in a further development Michelagnoli was able to supply moulding machines which replaced the slow French machines and enabled the production of hygiene headwear at the rate of one hat every twenty seconds. As wholesalers were now becoming a thing of the past the decision was taken to initially market school wear direct to the retail and Nicholas, Michael’s brother joined the company as sales manager.
In 1976 the company had relocated to its present situation in Old Bedford Road to a larger and more efficient factory to meet the growing demand for its increased range of hats which had now expanded to include soft hats the production of which had been assisted when the company employed a designer and staff from a firm which had ceased trading.
The fourth generation of the family Andrew, Michael’s son joined the company in 1983 after having completed an engineering apprenticeship bringing technical and new production skills.
A momentous year for the company was 1989 when a local manufacturer of men’s tweed hats was taken over, this further complemented the range of hats the company was able to produce, and the following year a new sales manager with experience of selling direct to the retail was engaged and the company began selling its complete range direct to the retail market. To ensure a strong financial base for the expanded company shortly after the change of direction, David, Michael’s second son, who had been away at university, and had also qualified as a chartered accountant, joined the company.
Having undertaken a large scale renovation of the current premises, today, the two directors are confidently taking the company forward with a diverse range of quality products.
In 2014 the company proudly celebrates its centenary, and with the continued dedication of a loyal and committed staff, will continue to look to grow and develop further markets, championing UK quality made headwear.