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Alberto Hernandez has made hat-making an art form right here in the Gallatin Valley. PHOTO BY GABRIELLA DICENZO

Crafting custom stories, one hat at a time

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By Gabriella DiCenzo Content Marketing Intern

In the realm of custom hat-making, Alberto Hernandez has established himself as a true artisan. As the founder of Meshika Hats, Hernandez’s journey in the industry has been shaped by inspiration and passion for creating beautiful headwear. From humble beginnings to collaborating with renowned individuals like famous quarterback Cam Newton, his story is as captivating as the hats he designs.

The inspiration behind starting Meshika stemmed from his deep connection to the art of hat-making and his family’s rich heritage. As a third-generation hat maker, Hernandez’s roots can be traced back to California, where his business partner’s involvement in the industry opened his eyes to the world of hat-making. Hernandez had already been making hats for movies, and being in California, a hub of fashion and style, further fueled his passion for creating hats. This love for the craft became an intrinsic part of his identity, and five years ago, with the support of friends, family, and business partner Cam Newton, he founded Meshika.

What sets Meshika apart from other hat-making stores is the unique experience it offers customers. When you step into Meshika, you don’t just get a hat – you become a part of the hat-making process. Customers have the opportunity to design their own hats, and Hernandez also creates collections for all customers to enjoy. Each hat at Meshika is personalized, and as he believes, “A good hat always tells a good story.”

Mashika Hats is located in Downtown Bozeman at 234 E Main St. PHOTO BY GABRIELLA DICENZO

Creating custom hats involves a meticulous process. The store offers a variety of styles and shapes for customers to try on. Once the desired shape is chosen, the focus shifts to colors, materials and other details. Hernandez takes pride in using premium materials such as beaver felt, rabbit felt, chinchilla, mink and wool. The selection of beaver felt, known for its durability and water-resistance, is a testament to his commitment to quality. He ensures that only the finest materials are used to craft hats that can withstand anything.

Over the years, Hernandez has had his fair share of memorable customer stories and experiences. One notable memory revolves around Abraham Lincoln’s hat for the film Lincoln. He was tasked with replicating it and personally visited Paramount Pictures to study the original stovepipe hat. The attention to detail and use of long-haired beaver felt in the hat resulted in an exceptional re-creation.

Staying updated with the latest hat trends and fashion styles is crucial for any hat-maker, and Hernandez is no exception. However, he takes a different approach, preferring not to rely on outside influences. His focus is on being an innovator and setting trends rather than following them. His collaboration with Pharrell, where he designed the iconic Vivienne Westwood hat worn at the 2014 Grammy Awards, is a testament to his ability to push boundaries and create distinct styles.

In the face of challenges, Hernandez remains true to himself and his brand. Competition is an ever-present obstacle, but instead of looking at other hat-makers, he stays original and authentic.

“I choose not to look at them [competitors] and be original and stay true to myself,” Hernandez said. 

Maintaining a balance between offering custom designs and catering to different customers’ preferences is a delicate art for Meshika. Hernandez manages this by implementing a well-structured timeline for customers, ensuring he is prepared and fully focused on each individual. By prioritizing his customers and valuing their time, he strikes the perfect equilibrium.

Collaborations and partnerships have been a part of Hernandez’s journey. He has worked with various brands and artists, including Lebron James, Justin Bieber, David Beckham, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Future and Johnny Depp. These collaborations not only expand the reach of Meshika but also bring together different creative visions and elevate the art of hat-making.

Looking toward the future, Hernandez envisions further growth for Meshika. His plans include establishing a stronger presence in the cowboy hat market and reviving old hat styles. His ambition extends beyond the business itself; he wants to represent his heritage and culture through hat collections that incorporate elements of American Navajo traditions.

For anyone interested in starting their own custom hat business, Hernandez offers valuable advice.

“Be original and true to yourself,” he said. “In order to stand out and make a mark in the industry, embracing your uniqueness is key.”

As Alberto Hernandez continues to shape stories, one hat at a time, Meshika remains a testament to the power of unwavering dedication. With each meticulously crafted hat, the artisan takes his customers on a journey of self-expression and style, celebrating the artistry inherent within each design.

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