American West July/August 2001
The Man Behind The Hat
By Vince Chavez
S. Grant Sergot, owner of Óptimo Custom Hatworks is the man behind the hat and he takes his position seriously. "You are dealing with people's egos, especially someone who doesn't feel comfortable wearing a hat. The hat has to match the personality of the wearer." Grant has taken great care in mastering this art. He is among the last remaining artisan of the American West. Adedicated craftsman, Grant finds it a challenge to take an unblocked hat and give it a form like a sculptor would a piece of art. "Folks will walk out of my store a whole different person. People's self-perception can change with a properly fitted and styled hat." The tailoring of the hat can accentuate a person's best features and play down the less desirable ones. For example, there are specific style techniques that a small frame person would wear that would be entirely different for a large framed person. Just buying a good hat is not enough - it has to be styled to suit you as an individual.
This hat maker lives in the Old Historic Mining Town of Bisbee, Arizona. This great little town is only 21 miles from the Legendary Western Town of Tombstone, Arizona. Nestled right in the mountains is this quaint turn of the century mining town with a historic shopping district. The town is filled with good restaurants, Grand Victorian hotels and bed & breakfasts, writers and artists. Originally from the Great Lake State of Michigan, Grant says, "Bisbee had everything I wanted out of life and good weather, too." Óptimo Custom Hatworks is located on historic Main Street in a Victorian renovated building.
Grant is famous for his original "Panama Hat." His hand woven Panama straws come from Ecuador, where this high grade weaving art comes from the descendants of the Inca Indian Civilization. "These weavers learn their art as children and devote their entire lifetime to the craft." Woven from finely selected "Paja Toquilla", a palmetto plant native to just Ecuador, they are supple and the most durable woven hat in the world. The Panama hats are graded from one to twenty in ascending order of quality, cost, and tightness of weave. A number 3-grade has the look of burlap, a number 10-grade will compare to cotton and a number 17-grade will be likened to silk. Movie celebrities have dropped in to buy an original Panama hat, Tom Selleck, Faye Dunaway, Richard Dean (from MacGyver), and John Deal (from Miami Vice).
Grant features over 200 hats in all sizes, styles, and price ranges. You can find custom-blended beaver, cashmere, hare and rabbit felt hats. I told Grant that I had a few good quality hats that for some reason I don't wear. He said they probably don't suit your style or personality. Bring them in and we can re-cut, re-shape and you will walk out with New Hats that you will like and most important you will wear!