Behind the scenes of the Borsalino hat
"For a hundred years the secret has been the brain of our technicians, the hands of our workers."
One hundred years after the birth of the Borsalino company, these are the opening words of one of the publications about the maison telling the story of its first 100 years, a centennial reached in 1957. There are pages of black and white photographs, which tell all the facets and meanings of the hats, but above all the experience of those who created the hats, made them, checked them one by one and selected them to become those Borsalino masterpieces that we all know. Those workers' skilled hands are that extra something that makes of every Borsalino hat a masterpiece: leafing through the pages we discover their faces and read their story. The real story, as it was lived daily.
"I started with the stiffening process. - says Giuseppe, immortalized among "his" machinery - From stiffening to flanging, flattening, and finishing; I worked on all the processes, with the different systems that came in later. I am 68 years old, I've been here since May 1904. During the days they were bombing I was here making hats. Twenty-seven bombings over Alessandria, and we kept on working, as long as we could. While the factory was burning - he concludes - we went in with the fire fighters to get the hats out. Later we also helped with the concrete casting to rebuild the factory after the war." Whole families worked at the Borsalino factory and the tradition was handed down from generation to generation, as Pio, who is seen posing proudly next to his work tables, tells: "I started working here in 1911. My dad and my grandfather were here before me. My grandfather worked in the black department, finishing, and so did my father (department head, if you are interested). I am in the white department. Before coming to processing, I worked for a year as concierge boy. Now my 24-year-old son works here. My brother also works here, as a mechanic-driver. My wife worked here for 25 years, now she has retired. In two years' time I will retire: I am 57 years old."
In the production of a Borsalino hat nothing has ever been left to chance, as Olga explains: "My job is inspecting. I have to find as many faults as possible. I inspect up to one hundred and five hats an hour. I have to detect creases, smudges, ridges, spots on the felt?"
More than 50 years have gone by since these accounts and it is more than a century and a half since Giuseppe Borsalino changed the face of his city, Alessandria, making it famous all over the world with his company. A company that has grown exponentially, but has never given up the authentic quality of Made in Italy, told, for once, by the words of those who made it a reality and a guarantee through time.