I can’t remember when I bought my first Tilley hat. I was looking for a wide-brimmed hat for shade and found this titfer that came with a story tucked into its crown, about how it had been invented by a yachtie.
He wanted shade from the sun for the tops of his ears (one of the most common locations for skin cancer), a hat that wouldn’t blow off in a stiff breeze but which would float if the breeze turned into a squall and took the hat with it.
The stories on the mini pamphlet inside the crown also told of a zookeeper in London whose Tilley had been eaten by an elephant, not once but twice. It had survived two journeys through the beast’s digestive tract and had still scrubbed up nicely, thank-you very much.
The original Tilley (the Wanderer) was pretty much like a cricket hat – simple, round and shady.
Then came a new model, that was a bit more stylish – rakish if you like. Just the thing for those Indiana Jones fantasies that play in your head as you are walking through the cobbled laneways of an ancient castle or dodging scooters in an Asian capital.
It’s called the Airflo (presumably because of the vents at the top as mush as the curved brim) and I’ve had it for years. There are even pictures of me wearing mine in Mexico, among other places, somewhere in this website.
I do like a hat – I have dozens, literally – but the Tilley is my go-to travel hat. It’s tough and resilient, elephant-proof and makes you look like a real traveller.
I’ve had the Airflo for about 10 years and I thought it was revolutionary, if not blasphemous, for them to have come up with that new style. So imagine my surprise when I went on their website to discover their range has exploded.
Different styles and fabrics, one with an evaporative cooler in the crown, another with ear flaps for the cold. And (good Lord!) they even have a baseball bap.
Not only that, they have moved into clothing – jumpers, teeshirts, jackets and pants – all under the brand Tilley Endurables.
I suppose the theory is, if you have created a highly regarded brand, exploit it to the max. Me, I’ll stick with my Airflo for now – it’s all the hat a traveller really needs.