Borsalino, for most, means the best fedora hats worn by Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Antony Quinn, Alain Delon, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Federico Fellini, and Paul Newman.
Giuseppe Borsalino – nicknamed "u siur Pipen" (Master Joe) in the local dialect – was born in Pecetto di Valenza, in the province of Alessandria, Piedmont, in 1834. After starting as an errand boy then an apprentice in his home town, he found a job at the Berteil hat factory in Rue du Temple, Paris, where he worked for around seven years before becoming a qualified Master Hatter.
A year after returning to Italy, Giuseppe opened his first workshop in a courtyard in Via Schiavina in Alessandria together with his brother, Lazzaro.
It was the beginning of a story that was to achieve great success and immense satisfaction, becoming the stuff of legend: the story of a family destined to impress forever its own style and passion for hats on all future generations.
In 1871, Borsalino produced 300 hats a day thanks to its 130-strong team of employees. Giuseppe understood that it was time to make a decision about the company's future; based on what he has learnt in England, the Master decides to import the machines which in Denton, Stockport, in the suburbs of Manchester, had revolutionized the hat-making industry.
In 1897 the Master visits the Battersby hat-making factory in London and legend has it that "without being seen, he dips his handkerchief in a vat of "tar", and takes back to Italy the English secret for making perfect bowler hats". The quality of the Borsalino products easily transforms the dream of a small hand-craft shop into a real industry.
His decision to venture into exports led the Company to earmark 60% of its production for sale abroad already in the early 1900s; Borsalino hats were now worn in New York, Paris and London.
Giuseppe Borsalino died in 1900 and his son, Teresio, followed him at the helm of the Company, immediately proving that he was up to the task: the production of hats grew from 2,800 a day in 1901 to 5,500 in 1909, up to the record number of two million hats a year in the 1920s.
That same year, the Company won the Grand Prix at the Exposition Universelle de Paris and in 1905 became a joint-stock company.
With Teresio at the helm, in 1911 the Company collaborated with Marcello Dudovich, leading to a turning point in the history of advertising billboards: over the next few years, Borsalino advertising photos were among the best of their time.
Not only does Teresio had incredible business acumen, he was also a philanthropist who cared greatly about his home town: in 1924 he donated an aqueduct to the Municipality of Alessandria and later financed the building of an orphanage, a rest home and a sanatorium for the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, as well as innumerable other charitable acts.
Teresio Borsalino died in 1939, and the Company passed into the hands of his nephew, Teresio Usuelli, his sister's young son who, at only 25 years of age, received a prestigious inheritance at a most critical moment for the Company: right in the middle of the crises caused by the devastation of war, the young man finds himself faced with great responsibility, and a situation that is not easy to manage.
On the 30th April and 1st May 1 May 1944 the factory was hit by two massive bombardments.
At the end of the Second World War, the Company's recovery was enhanced by a line of new hats, including fifty new models with innovative and surprising lines which stimulated exports.
The success of its exports was strengthened in 1947 when the Company signed agreements with USA, Venezuela, Colombia, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Turkey, bringing production up to 800,000 hats a year in the mid-1950s.
Today, Borsalino owns sixteen single-brand sales points in Italy and one in Paris; moreover, the brand is also sold in the most elegant boutiques and in the most prestigious department stores across the world: Berdgorf & Goodman, Barney's, Sacks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Harrod's, Selfridges, Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Bon Marché, Isetan, and Imaru to name but a few.
The rich and famous as well as celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Leonardo Di Caprio, Denzel Washington, Justin Timberlake, Kate Moss, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Campbell, and John Malkovich are immortalized wearing the unique style of the living legend of the most prestigious brand of hats in the world.