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RIP: Anthony the hat man

Anthony Okwesia died earlier this week. Here's a profile we ran in 2008. He will be much missed

Published on June 16th 2011.

RIP: Anthony the hat man

Grand Central
Renshaw Street
0151 7070778

So Anthony, why open a hat shop?
Everybody needs hats.  When I came here as a student in 1987 I used to go round looking for hats and I could never find any. It used to frustrate me so much. I left in 1992, went to Dubai for ten years, and then I thought when I came back to Liverpool, if there were none, I would open a hat shop. I basically started from scratch, testing the market, just standing on the street selling hats. From there I went to the Heritage Market at Stanley Dock and got myself a weekend stall.

Still there now?
Yep, still there now every Sunday. People used to come up to me and say I should be in the city centre so I just listened to them.

I went and saw Peter at the old Quiggins and he said, "Whenever you're ready Anthony, we'll accommodate you." But unfortunately that all closed down so when this place opened I thought I'd wait six months for it to get established and then I'd go and see him.

Who buys hats from you?
I usually say that I cater from anyone from six to 60. In Liverpool I tend to find you get students, emos, goths and all that.

The older generation like their hats. The Chinese like their hats. And then you get all the tourists... Spanish people love hats. Irish people love their hats. Actually, I'd say Spanish and Irish buy the most.

And what do the Irish go for?
Trilbies. Flat caps...

Do you class a cap as a hat then? Is it not a bastardised version of the hat?
No. It's like a pair of trousers isn't it? Whether they are jeans or they're cords, they're still trousers aren't they? Whether a hat is a beanie, a trilby or a cap, it's still a hat.

What I did forget to tell you when you asked who buys hats off me: The guy who buys stuff for Hollyoaks, the lady that does the Playhouse, a lot of thespian kind of people, people from the Everyman. I get all sorts. I get all the trendies, the bohemians, all the hippy types. Everyone comes and buys.

It's not just hats that you do though, is it?
No, I do Belts, bags, socks, bling jewellery, belt buckles; then I do all the quirky stuff. Theatrical top hats, pirate hats, jester hats, bowlers...

You've obviously got a passion for hats yet I haven't seen you wear a hat yet. When did your passion begin?
That's because I knew the weather was going to be good today! When did my passion start? I don't even know where it started. I have just always worn hats. I can remember in the 1980s, I used to have one that the Village People used to wear, you know the leather cap with the gold chain across the front. In the 1990s I took the gold chain off and carried on wearing the hat. I've still got it today.

Village People aside, then, who do you think pulls off a good hat?
I like Charlie Chaplin. He always looked good didn't he?

Do you think everyone can wear a hat?
Yes. There's a hat for everybody.

If someone comes into you and wants to buy a hat but doesn't know which one's going to suit them, can you help them?
Yes, 100%. Measure their head, look at what they've got on, the shape of their face, see what style they like. Generally it's all about feel and attitude because you'll know when you put the right one on.

Hat etiquette. Does it still exist?
The only time it really exists now is if you go to a nightclub and the bouncer says "take your hat off mate before you come in." I don't know if that's hat etiquette or no, but it always pisses me off.

Do you know what doffing is?
Doffing? No.

Doffing is when you tip one's hat, perhaps to a lady
Oh right. Nowadays we just say "Ooerr, give us your digits there, la."

I forgot to ask. What's the name of your shop?
You don't know?! It's HATSB4UASSK. People used to come in and ask what I sold so I used to tell them, "take a look around and see for yourself". Then before people even spoke, I just said "hats before you ask". Have you not seen my face on the flyers and the floor of my shop?

Erm no?
I saw Paris Hilton one day, advertising her own perfume with her own face and I thought if she can use her face to promote her perfume, I can use my face to promote my business so I got my mate to draw me. It's on my flyers, on my shop floor, my shop window and it'll be on my website when that goes live in a month or two.

Plans for the future then?
Just the website really. I don't want to work too hard. I'm not really into that hard work syndrome kind of life. Money, money, money, money, nahhhh.

I could be like Tie Rack and have a shop everywhere but I'm not really into it. If I'm on the internet people can find me. I'm like a ship that drifts through the ocean.

Every now and again I just have to give myself a little push in some sort of direction.

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

What about...July 28th 2008.

Pizza Hat

Mahatma SocsJuly 28th 2008.

I love hats, I especially like them ones the acid brother Jay Kay chooses to wear. Either way, I think this shop is great. I often wondered if there would be a successful niche market in edible hats. Like edible food, only made of hats.

Stanley StreetJuly 28th 2008.


notJuly 28th 2008.

a hat. To quality as a hat, an item of headgear must have a brim and a crown, and caps have neither. So for example a fez is a cap, because although it has a crown, it has no brim. The Benny-from-Crossroads-style knitted hat popular with the dim and the degenerate is similarly a cap.

“Nowadays we just say "Ooerr, give us your digits there, queen.”July 28th 2008.


Angie Sammons shared this on Facebook on June 16th 2011.
AnonymousJune 16th 2011.

Very sad news. Anthony was a lovely man and his shops were a delight to browse. A big loss to Liverpool.

JessJune 17th 2011.

I couldn't walk past Tony's hat shop on Bold Street without buying something. A beautiful spirit. So sorry to hear this I feel like crying.

AnonymousAugust 7th 2011.

Big loss. I still have three of the hats I bought from Tony.

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