Photographer Rodney Smith, featured here, doesn’t always do big books. The Hat Book, on which Smith collaborated with author/designer Leslie Smolan, is smallish by contrast, about 7 inches high and just a bit wider. Like a great hat, the book is wonderfully mysterious — even romantic.
[Photo: Greenwich, Conn., 1991]
Published in 1993, The Hat Book is a visual essay on the experience, the whimsy and the sense of style that hats bestow.
[Photo: Snedens Landing, N,Y., 1989]
From the introduction: “A hat is the difference between wearing clothes and wearing a costume; it’s the difference between being dressed and being dressed up; it’s the difference between looking adequate and looking your best….”
[Photo: Piermont, N.Y., 1992]
There are short hat-related quotes throughout — from Dr. Seuss, Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others. Every image captures the magical experience of wearing a hat, and each reproduction is a skillful balance of creativity and technical expertise — printed drytrap via 300 linescreen separations by Heritage Press.
[Photo: Castlemartin, Ireland, 1988]
From the red ribbon “hatband” wrapping the cover (see top photo), to the Mokuba flyleafs, the designerly eye of Leslie Smolan, Carbone Smolan Agency, is evident throughout. Her touch, if we dare say, is as smooth as the Mohawk Superfine Smooth, 100 lb. text, on which the book’s pages were printed.
Like a great hat, this book is magical and endearing. It is no wonder The Hat Book (Nan Talese/Doubleday, 1993) won major design awards including the AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers (now in the AIGA Design Archives) and the Leipzig Book show. Signed copies of the book are, happily, available here.
This project was literally a labor of love. In 1988, Leslie Smolan met a man who owned a hat company. Shortly after that, she met photographer Rodney Smith. When Smolan suggested they collaborate on a book about hats, two things happened: Smolan and Smith were married, and they both became obsessed with hats. Six pages are devoted to hat-related resources. [PW]