The History of Akubra
In 1874 Benjamin Dunkerley arrived in Tasmania from England and decided to start a hat making business in Hobart. His skills as a hatter were backed by his ability to invent machinery, and soon after his arrival he had developed a mechanical method of removing the hair tip from rabbit fur so the under-fur could be used in felt hat making. Previously this task had to be done by hand.
In the 1880's Dunkerley moved the business to Crown Street, Surry Hills, an inner suburb of Sydney, setting up a small hat making factory.
In 1902 Stephen Keir I, who had also migrated from England, joined Dunkerley. Keir had hat making experience from England, and was seen as a valuable acquisition for the business. In 1905 he married Ada Dunkerley, Benjamin's daughter and soon after was made General Manager. Since that time the hat making firm has been in the hands of succeeding generations of the Keir family. In 1911, the business became Dunkerley Hat Mills Ltd, and had a mere nineteen employees.
The trade name "Akubra" came into use in 1912. The increasing popularity resulted in the move to larger premises in Bourke Street, Waterloo and expanded production, especially of Slouch hats during World War I. Soon after all hats were branded Akubra. When Dunkerley died in 1925, ownership of the business transferred to Stephen Keir 1. The business continued to flourish and when Stephen Keir retired in 1952 he was succeeded as Managing Director by his eldest son, Herbert. His second son, Stephen Keir II, served as General Manager and became Managing Director in 1972. His son, Stephen Keir III, became Managing Director in 1980. Another son, Graham, joined the firm in 1972, first as sales representative for Northern NSW and later as National Sales Manager. Unfortunately, Graham died prematurely in 1987. Stephen Keir III retired as Managing Director on 31st December 2007, allowing his son and fourth generation of the Keir Family, Stephen Keir IV, to assume the mantle of Managing Director. Stephen Keir III remains active in the business and is Chairman of the Board of Directors. So the family tradition continues.
Looking After your Akubra
First and foremost - Never leave your hat in the car or in direct sunlight when not being worn. Do not force dry the hat if it has become wet. The inside leather band will shrink and once this happens it is hard to stretch back to its original size. Akubra hats are shower-proof and include a water proofing solution. As the hat ages the water proofing during manufacture may break down and the felt will absorb water. However, generally your head will remain dry.
Fitting your Akubra
Do not squeeze the front of your hat when putting it on your head as this in time will cause a sharp point which will be the first place the hat will wear. Tugging the brim to ensure the fit can spoil the brim if this is done continually. When not being worn rest the hat upside down on the crown or hang it on a hat peg.
To properly fit a hat, clear all hair away from the forehead and place the front of the hat (ribbon bow and size to the back) on the head: then by placing the palm of your hand on the back of the crown push the hat down. The hat should fit firmly on the head so that a good push down will make the hat stay in place on a windy day. When trying a hat on you will occasionally find one size too small and the next too big. It is suggested that you purchase the larger one and insert a liner inside the leather sweatband to help the hat fit more snugly. A hat that feels too tight will never be comfortable. When the hat is new it may feel a little stiff. However, with wear the leather hatband will begin to mould to your head shape.
If the hat brim is out of shape simply place the area over steam (a kettle will do nicely) until the area is moist. Remember not to get the inside band wet. The bent brim can be reshaped with your fingertips and any crown marks should simply disappear.
Cleaning your Akubra
Your Akubra should be cleaned by a hat cleaning specialist only. However if the hat is slightly soiled with dust and/or grime, firstly brush the hat in an anti-clockwise direction to remove any dust and then lightly rub the affected area with a paint thinner or dry cleaning fluid. Do not use too much. Car upholstery cleaner can be used (Kitten B). Spray on and leave for 15-20 seconds then wipe off with a damp cloth.