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Borsalino: Italy’s Timeless Legend

Indiana Jones risked his life for his hat—but why? It was a Borsalino! Considered by many to be the Cadillac of the Fedora and Panama (the summer version), the dashing Borsalino hat has been a staple of the fashionable Italian man since 1857. Few art crafts are made with such exacting care and attention, and the company’s milliners still use machines that are more than 100 years old. At that time in Alessandria, Piedmont, the two brothers Giuseppe and Lazzaro Borsalino founded a small workshop for producing custom-made, high-quality men’s felt hats. These founders were definitely dreamers. Their creations were comparable to a Copernican revolution, replacing the tall, stiff top hat with a most manageable and comfortable variety.

The Borsalino company’s golden year was 1888 when the workshop became an industry able to produce 2,500 felt hats a day and was awarded the Grand Prix, the 1900 Paris Universal Exposition’s certificate of quality. The Borsalino brand became famous and in demand throughout the world. One hundred sixty-six years later, in 2023, Borsalino is still a synonym for elegance and refinement. After a few years of economic crisis, the brand’s relaunch —thanks to an Italian/Swiss private equity company—has now achieved the new goal of establishing a fresher international brand image that is scoring points in opening new stores around the world.

Also this year, in the historic headquarters of Palazzo Borsalino, which for 100 years was the entrance of the hat factory, the Borsalino Museum was inaugurated in collaboration with the company's foundation. Nearly 6,700 square feet are dedicated to the museum, which is flanked by a Café and Gift Shop. The collection includes more than 2,000 hats, divided into three narrative areas.

By the late 1930s, Borsalino had become a modern manufacturing group and global-reach brand with visibility opportunities in advertising and cinema. Hollywood fell in love with it and the greatest movie stars have worn beloved Borsalinos. Some of the most iconic wearers are Humphrey Bogart Casablanca's (1940) unforgettable final scene, Alain Delon in Borsalino & Company (1970), Al Pacino in The Godfather (1972), and Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby (1974).

In addition, Robert De Niro played Al Capone, another lover of the Borsalino, in The Untouchables (1987) directed by Brian De Palma and Warren Beatty wore the hat in Dick Tracy (1990), as did Michael Jackson in the video for “Smooth Criminal”. Federico Fellini was a huge Borsalino fan who not only wore one but also immortalized actor Marcello Mastroianni in the hat in his 1963 masterpiece 8 ½.

Today’s star musicians, actors, and fashion trendsetters wear the Borsalino in many original ways. Superstar Pharrell Williams, for example, teaches us how to enhance this hat in a hipster look, oscillating between urban and casual with jeans, a military jacket, a white shirt, and a black bow tie.

When in Rome visit the Borsalino boutiques at Leonardo Da Vinci- Fiumicino Airport, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza del Popolo, or near the Pantheon where you’ll find one of the most sophisticated hat boutiques of the Eternal City and a piece of Italian shopping history. In Milan, don’t skip the chance to visit the historic Borsalino Boutique at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II facing the famous Teatro alla Scala opera house.

Barbara Benzoni

 Barbara Benzoni was born in Milan and lives between Rome and Tuscany. She is devoted to USA, the land of courage and innovation. She’s Peter's super-lucky mum and Ale's wife. Cinema, art, good food and only beautiful things are the themes of her existence. With a degree in Italian literature and a Masters in Sports Management she can both enjoys books and basketball matches. In 25 years she has been organizing sport events all over the world and she’s been lucky enough to meet the greatest champs ever. Curiosity in everyday life and people are her drivers. Her personal icon is Mohammed Ali : "It's not bragging if you can back it up".