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A “At some point my mind takes over and lends the hat soul, and it would be foolish to fight against it,” winks The Mad Hatter, pointing to one of the many inscriptions on the walls of his shop: “Be rad!” In his madness, the French-American falls back on self-styled remedies to change and stress the hat material. Once he even turned to a .45 Magnum to give a black hat with rabbit-fur pompom a carefully aimed grazing shot out in the desert. “With each new hat, it’s the same as a picture: I always start with a blank sheet of paper. My childhood memories and my travels through different countries and their cultures have a strong influence on every single hat,” says Fouquet, seeming to flip through his head as if it were a colorful travel diary. Fragments of a wild, unconstrained life. In his studio, Fouquet begins working on a new hat. From a series of rolls of fabric he chooses the appropriate colors: orange, blood red, yellow, indigo, beige, gray or black — all there. Fouquet cuts a square from the roll and a short time later pulls the piece over an oval cylinder of solid wood using considerable force. At the bottom is the wooden disk that corresponds to the head size of the customer. With the help of hot steam, Fouquet pulls the fabric further and further down over the cylinder until finally it takes the desired hat shape. He usually favors the form of the classic Fedora, the so-called teardrop: When looking at the hat from above, the curvature takes the form of a droplet. “The steam makes the fabric malleable. I have to be fast, because as soon as it gets cold, it stays in that shape,” he explains. Using a sharp knife, Fouquet cuts along the edge of the brim. He presses the iron, out of which hot steam hisses, one last time on the edge of the hat and once again enshrouds the entire hat in fog. Then comes a batch of fine-grained sand that he tosses at the hat to give it even more structure. Last but not least, he sews a small loop on the affixed hat band into which he inserts a match — Fouquet’s trademark. Then the black crow’s feather. Hold on. For his final act, Fouquet sprays the hat with a blue liquid, lights a match, puts the piece on, and sets it alight. Hatmaking is always an adventure with Nick Fouquet. Perhaps the last of his kind. After the agony, the hats rest. Mahogany cylinders retain their shape. The range of hats in a hand-bound book made of leather: In a saloon, it would have enchanted anyone, even the hard-bitten hero. 119


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