April 17, 2019
The Headwear Association Blog
Blogging again - six months removed from my last blog. This one is about The Headwear Association (THA). Last week I attended The Headwear Association's annual dinner in NYC. It was the 111th annual dinner, making THA the oldest industry association known to man. I'm sure I have blogged about THA before. Broner has been a platinum sponsor for as long as I can remember and I'm a past president and current board member. I know a lot of other business owners from a lot of different industries, and it seems like every industry has an association. Ours is different. Here is why.
Foster Goodwill and Fellowship
THA, originally called The Traveling Hat Salesman Association, was founded in 1908 at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City by 34 traveling hat salesmen. Their goal was to "encourage the spirit of friendship and fraternity in the hat trade". Unbelievably, the group has been meeting annually in New York City ever since.
Who doesn't love a cocktail party?
Imagine getting a bunch of competitors together for a night of fellowship and goodwill. In fact, early in my career, many companies were guarded against fraternizing with the competition – my father included. The fear was that everyone was trying to learn and steal each other's customers. So around 20 years ago the Traveling Hat Salesman Association officially changed their name to The Headwear Association and added to their mission. THA now has the mission of promoting hats and the headwear industry throughout the world in addition to fostering goodwill and fellowship amongst its members. And what better way can you think of – to achieve this goal – than to have one gigantic cocktail party in a prime location in the heart of New York City with great food and endless pours. The evening starts with a business meeting and content on how we can increase the demand for hats. We have a publicist, and we involve the public - by giving away hats and information on sun protection in the summer, donating warm hats for the homeless in the winter, and creating the Headwear Hall of Fame. We even have public voting for the hat person of the year, a celebrity known for influencing hat wearing. We also have a hat fashion show. But eventually every year, what starts as a business meeting ends up with a lot of laughs, camaraderie, and you might call it "monkey business"…
The difference is the people
You can serve the best food, pour the finest spirits, and gather in a cool spot; but if the people aren't going to cooperate, the event goes nowhere. Not at this event. First of all, hat people are cool. I don't know a better way to say it. And to attend this party, everyone must wear a hat, or at least they are encouraged to. I'm 55 years old and I've never lived in a time where everyone wore a hat. At this party, in a room with 125 people donning their favorite hat, or cap, or fascinator for the ladies – the room transcends. Secondly, when you are in the hat business, you are really in the fashion business. Fashion is a broad term and it is interpreted differently by all. This is not a "stuffy" party. Nobody is looking at labels (except maybe whose hat brand you are wearing). But everyone brings a bit of their own swag – or fashion. Finally, everybody at the party believes that a "rising tide raises all ships". Meaning that by attending this dinner party and offering any suggestion that might help increase the demand for headwear, everybody in the room is better off.
I'll be back
I'm proud to be involved, proud that our brand is a sponsor brand, and even prouder that the board asks me to MC the dinner program.
Long story short – get a room full of cool people, all donning their own brands of fashion, eating and drinking good stuff, with the common denominator being that all are making a living in the same industry – you get one hell of an evening.
See you next year… BB
Competitors or friends?