The hat above is my favorite Bes Ben hat. I mean just look at it, gold metal cicadas, silver beaded edging, a hard sculpted base softened only by the use of plush chocolate brown velvet...I want it! With a brown tweed suit? Divine! Today on hat histories we learn a bit about Bes Ben and admire some of my favorites from designer Benjamin B Green-Field.
Benjamin B Green-Field was born in Chicago in 1898 and in 1919 opened his first millinery shop with his sister Bessie (hence Bes, for Bessie, and Ben, for Benjamin). Bes Ben hats began relatively traditional and stylish, but grew in the early forties to become more surrealist and occasionally absurd (in a good way!). Benjamin embraced non-traditional materials during the rationing war years, like kitchen utensils and napkin rings (on hats yes) and never looked back. Doll furniture, miniature animals, fruits, dolls, birds, nothing was exempt from being put atop a hat, not even miniature hats! The sense of humor and high design combined with interesting materials mad Bes Ben hats incredibly sought after both in their time and today.
Mr. Green-Field's success in business afforded him a sumptuous life filled with travel and collecting. He became a passionate philanthropist and in 1987, not long before his death. he endowed the Benjamin B. Green-Field foundation in order to improve the quality of life for children and the elderly of his home town of Chicago. From starting out life as the son of an iron worker, he sure made a life for himself with his whimsical hats! Where is a movie about this man? I need more fashion history films! Lets look at some Bes Ben hats shall we?
Look at this cute little hat! I like hats that sort of clip onto the top of the head and this shape is really cute with the swirls on the sides. Note the plastic tubing around the edges like piping, it's a material Bes Ben used frequently.
Like in this hat where the whole thing is made out of said tubing!
This is a rather subdued Bes Ben, but i really like it! Perfect for fall right? Should I get creative with some felt and some brass stampings? I feel a repro coming...
Another style Bes Ben are know for are these little jewel/bead encrusted hats. This one is more cap shaped but some of them were just little strip like figure-8's covered in plastic gems.
This would be such a perfect x-mas/new years hat! This one would be easy to DIY with those glitter Christmas stems from the craft store for making wreaths.
I'm pretty sure the hat on the right above is covered in leather leaves? Super cool, I'd love a leather leaf hat!
This fruit basket hat is super cute, I love fruity hats! The chenille dot veiling is really pretty too.
A hat with tiny skunks? Of course! There is that beaded edging again too, something I need to try in a future hat for sure. If there was a version of this hat with foxes I would be even more enthused!
A hat with bees! I love bees! With feather wings? So cute!
I haven't even scratched the surface of Bes Ben hats, and I chose the subtler ones, so imagine what the rest look like! I highly encourage you to browse other Bes Ben hats on Pinterest because they are endlessly inspiring and rather uplifting to look at! I know I have a lot of ideas for hats I want to make now just after compiling this post!