Cody Wellema adheres to an old-school approach to hat making.
By: Sara Smola, Photos By: Ethan Wong
Altadena’s Wellema Hat Co. is a must-stop for the community’s stylish set. The shop specializes in bespoke hats, made with old-world craftsmanship and standards to ensure optimum quality. Despite having designed for Hollywood heavy hitters and musicians, there’s nothing flashy or gimmicky about owner Cody Wellema’s approach to the craft.
Each hat is hand-stitched and tailored to perfection, not only to the design specification of the client, but also to guarantee a proper fit. Wellema can craft anything from period hats to contemporary hats to everything in between—including pork pies, cowboy hats, and fedoras.Prices start at roughly $300 (depending on extras such as trims and pins), but the true value of owning one of Wellema’s heirloom-quality creations is priceless.
Inspired by his love of history, Wellema was drawn to the classic styles of the past, but when comparing a department store version with his own vintage chapeau, the difference was, he says, “like night and day.” Wellema began researching how hats were made, even taking some apart in a “reverse engineering” attempt, while gaining experience as a self-taught hat maker. “There’s no school for this, there’s no textbook. There are a couple of books that were published in 1916 that were kind of a manual, but besides that, the only real way to learn this is apprenticeship,” Wellema says.
In 2013,he started his company, later setting up shop in Altadena in 2016. “I want this to be a place of community,” he says. “That’s what I try to cultivate here in the shop; it’s not only a retail hat shop, but also a place where people can come hang out.”While plenty of locals consistently stop in fora custom hat, Wellema also has clients out of state (New York) and overseas (London, Tokyo, and Hong Kong)who want (and are willing to pay for) a Wellema hat. “I get the question a lot,” Wellema says, “‘Who is your clientele?’ But I never have an answer for that because every single person who walks through the door for a hat is different than the next.”