September 08 2010
When I was a teenager, one of my favourite films was the 1970 French gangster movie Borsalino, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon. Set in the 1930s and shot in Marseilles, it had a terrific theme tune and was a kind of Gallic equivalent of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with the outlaw heroes wearing rakish fedoras instead of cowboy hats.
The title of the film was inspired by the name of the famous Italian hat-maker Giuseppe Borsalino, who started work in an atelier in Paris in 1850. By the 1930s and 1940s a hand-made Borsalino felt or straw hat was de rigueur for smartly-dressed European men. Fashions changed over time but in the 21st century hats are back and Borsalino now has 15 branches in Italy, and of course one in Paris, near St-Germain-des-Prés, stocking stylish and sophisticated titfers for men and women.
I like the look of the Classic Panama (€400, first picture) and the Guanaco felt fedora (€500, second picture) in brown and grey, both of which have a wider brim than the British model and ooze Mediterranean and Marseilles swagger. Johnny Depp, who has a house in the south of France and played the gangster John Dillinger in last year’s film Public Enemies, is one of Borsalino’s biggest fans.
And it was to Borsalino that I turned a few years ago when I was invited to a French 50th birthday party. The dress code was 1930s/40s, so I bought a grey felt wide-brimmed fedora from Borsalino to wear with a pinstripe suit, thus finally realising my teenage French gangster fantasies.