Milliner Geoffrey Mintz wrapped his head around hats in an unusual, international way. While his grandfather owned a hat shop in Brooklyn from the 1920s to the 1950s, he didn’t set out to follow that path when he went to China eight years ago.
“My maternal grandfather had several hat stores in New York and Pennsylvania, while my paternal grandfather imported from Japan and other countries, so I was always around hats and hat makers,” Mintz says. “But my interest was in the burgeoning alternative energy field.”
Growing up in Brooklyn and summering in Southampton, Mintz traveled to East Asia to speak to some companies about solar energy, hoping to put together a deal. He fell in love practically at first sight with the woman from a Chinese solar energy company who had been sent to pick him up at the airport. The deals may have been elusive, but Mintz went back a few months later for the woman. To win her over, he moved to China for three years.
“While traveling in Asia, I found many unusual hat fibers and shapes I felt would be popular in the New York—hats that would be stylish as well as practical for gardening and being out in the sun. Goal 2020 Hats was started as a way for me to stay involved in both countries. I started a website to sell online and sell to stores in New York,” he says.
When Mintz decided to move back to Long Island with his new wife, they looked for warehouse space. He found a wonderful little house/shop in a back alley on Jobs Lane in Southampton that was so affordable he realized he could also open a shop there.
He came up with the name That Way Hat—as in “make me a hat that way” or “you can wear it that way.” For interior décor he hooked up with a man who had purchased a whole shipping container, sight unseen, filled with decorative metal bulbs used to guide gardening hoses on the ground. With their sturdy material and rounded shape, they were perfect for hanging hats on the wall. Some hats he designs, and has manufactured abroad. Mintz works with American milliners and also sells imported hats. He’s still setting up the shop, but it remains open as he arranges shelves and opens large boxes filled with new hats daily.
One particular hat design, worn by Bob Dylan in the 1970s—a soft gray felt with a flat indented top, a hand woven band and an array of flowers and wheat that is part preacher and part circus barker—inspired Mintz to recreate it using bands woven in Guatemala and small attached metal tubes to hold decorations. “I just loved this design—it looks really contemporary and unisex even decades later,” he exclaims.
Scent is not something normally associated with hats, but as most of Mintz’s summer stock is straw and fiber based, the shop has a wonderful fresh field smell. The materials have exotic names like Sinamay and Abaca. The textile weaves can be open or dense, with multiple circles of threads surrounding the entire hat.
Mintz pulls out a bag filled with sized paper patterns in oddly pointed shapes. “It can take as many as 10 or more patterns to make one hat, depending on the complexity of the brim and the overall shape,” he explains. A well-made hat also has a lining that can be more prominent than the top of the brim, which adds another layer.
When asked what makes for a “good hat,” Mintz thinks for a few moments and replies, “A good hat either brings attention or can make you anonymous. It’s a very personal piece of clothing. Hats tell a story and can totally change an outfit or attitude. I also find that it helps a person identify with a group—this is my style, this is my tribe. I try and size someone up when they come into the store and suggest styles that they may like or have never tried before.”
That Way Hat, 85 Jobs Lane, Southampton, 631-283-0800, thatwayhat.com. Artist Davis Murphy has a pop-up robotic installation in front of the store through Labor Day.