Olney Headwear was founded by Albert Olney in 1914 in Luton, Bedfordshire, the historical center of the British hat industry. Mr. Olney came from a family of hat makers and he himself was a foreman blocker of a leading English hat manufacturer when he decided to launch his own business. He was later joined by his brother, Tom Olney.
The Olney trademark hat was, and is still today, the straw boater. Olney was (and still is) in fact an important supplier to public schools like Eton, Harrow and Windsor where the boater was part of the school uniform. The company supplied panama and straw hats during summer and velour as well as felt hats for the winter. Exports to the British colonies prospered, for instance, South Africa, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) amongst other African markets as well as the West Indies.
During the 30’s, fashion trends were changing and although the boater was still used in public schools, Olney found themselves being the only straw boater manufacturer left in England. Panama and other straw hats started to play an increasingly more important role.
In 1935, Maurice Chevalier, the famous French screen star and a loyal Olney customer who never put aside his straw boater, went to visit his supplier in to Luton. M. Chevalier signed an autograph for M. Olney, saying “for a straw hat which is a straw hat”.
Today, it is the fourth generation of the family who runs the business thanks to the expertise acquired from their parents, grandparents and great grandparents.
The hat production still takes place in the company’s proper factory in Luton. Today the product range is large, composed mainly of classic and timeless hats made in quality materials by their skilled workforce. They even acquired a local tweed hat manufacturer in 1989.