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Hindsight is Always 2020

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on December 31, 2020 in News Reel Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

A rather low quality picture got my imagination going. Beanies haphazardly dropped on the floor in a variety of wornness and mismatching colors.

The reason it got me thinking was the history it represents.

Only red, but with several shades of saturation

The red beanie tucked away in the bottom center, represents the beginnings. It is the third Southlander ever knit, some time in 2016, when we launched our first product. Back then, we called it “The Rounded.” You can read more of our genesis story here.

The black and gray ones represent our first leap from purely red beanies. We are Red Hat Factory, and stayed purely red for about two years, just in order to cement our identity working towards “the best red explorer cap ever knit.” Also at this point we made sure to point out that the gray and black ones are also red, only with lower saturation and various amounts of light.

Whatever, we’re not purely red anymore

Chronologically, the Limited Editions were the ones that broke us into a color range. Since they’re only hidden away on Facebook/Instagram, and 100% of our sales are on our website, some of them are actually still available, years after. I’ll get them up on the website eventually…

Sigh. There’s so much else I want to do as well.

After that we opened up to the idea of more colors, something we will definitely continue as we’re moving forward. Already I can slip a little secret. We’re soon launching our first orange beanie, aimed at American hunters who are required to wear orange on the job.

The gold and olive beanies became the first colors to stay, and have stayed the only ones for a long time. The olive will soon have to be changed, since the yarn goes out of production, and we are definitely looking at more colors to add to the spectrum. Marine blue for example has been requested many times.

Let us know in the comments, what color’s you’d like to see.

Some time in 2019, we experimented with dyeing beanies, and I am currently looking into ancient Japanese dying techniques, to bring you a few self-dye kits some time in 2021. It will be fricking awesome.

That, by the way is how the two yellow beanies on the picture came to be.

Whatever, we’re not purely a beanie company anymore

The hand knit wool socks have gotten far too little love, and it is on the 2021 prio list to get some more colors and some better product photos that properly represent the socky heritage that runs so deep in a Norwegian heart.

The socks are pivotal in the way that they brought us out of being only a beanie company, and paved the way for our flagship product (meaning, the only product that could be used as a flag for a ship): The All Man’s Right.

Flagship wool sweater
If this doesn’t convince you, what will?

How the packaging has grown

From beginning with beanies in a bag, with a little card signed by the knitter, we are back to square one. Beanies in a bag, card signed by knitter, plus a few stickers. (We are giving you a discount to compensate though.)

Hand knit wool beanie packaging
“I also used to look good when I was your age, son.”

The reason was because the only box that really suited us went out of production, and I’ve scoured the internet for similar ones — but the few I’ve found can’t be shipped to Norway.

Anyway.

This lead me to look in other places, and began the most exciting project I’m currently working on — custom tailored boxes just of our products. It will definitely up your experience getting a Red Hat Factory product.

And thinking of that, I remember I have to get back to work. So many ideas needs to be put in action.

Ghost Town Living — The Abandoned Mines at Cerro Gordo

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on November 27, 2020 in News Reel Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

What if you were offered to buy an abandoned mining town? The price would correspond approximately to your entire life’s savings. For Brent Underwood the answer was yes.

In 2018, the marketing genius, threw his life savings into a pool with a few other investors and bought the historical town of Cerro Gordo, California. Among his partners, he alone is actively living in the mining town as they slowly restore it to former glory.

Brent Underwood
Brent Underwood talking to the camera all by his lonesome. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

Cerro Gordo was one of the major sources of wealth for the Los Angeles region since it was started back in 1865, until it shut down in the late 1950’s. The first silver was found by a Spanish-speaker named Pablo Flores, who named it “Fat Hill,” a.k.a Cerro Gordo.

Such was the economic impact of the silver mines that in 1869 The Los Angeles Times called it the silver cord that binds our present existence.

Now the silver is long extracted, and lead and zinc as well. And the town is abandoned, crumbling, with many a mineshaft collapsed. But that is about to change. The silver of the 21st century, after all, is tourism, and once again these mines will extract ore.

Follow the journey — Ghost Town Living

I first heard about the mines in my YouTube recommendations, when a video named Day In The Life: Living Alone In An Abandoned Ghost Town popped up. I was intrigued (as the title intended), and with my 1 year old boy on my lap, we hunkered down and plowed though several of the videos in one go.

The Cerro Gordo mining town.
Current day Cerro Gordo from the air. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

It is reality-tv that inspire one of the values we promote here at Red Hat Factory. Fighting back against the stress of our culture, and embracing the rest that comes with being completely absorbed in what you’re doing.

What is it that has such a draw about the Cerro Gordo restoration project? I think the idea of taking something once great, and slowly bringing it back to life is such a primal human desire. We are made to create and improve, and following others on their journey of doing so is immensely satisfying.

It also helps that the scenery is absolutely stunning, again and again.

Cerro Gordo mining town sunset.
The view from Cerro Gordo. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

And kittens!

And goats, quad bikes, mine exploration, along with the restoration itself. Can it get more inspiring?

I don’t know, but at least it can get more dramatic…

Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

The 2020 fire at Cerro Gordo

The silver mines hold a long history of hard work, success and tragedy. And recently another disaster became part of the 155 years of history. The American Hotel, which was a hallmark of the mining town, burned to the ground.

The American Hotel at Cerro Gordo.
The American Hotel at Cerro Gordo, before the fire. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

“Cerro Gordo is not a start up,” said Brent Underwood, and he claims he will die there. This long term thinking resounds deeply with me. From the beginning, Red Hat Factory, has been more than just a start up to grow and sell, and I relate to the feeling of wanting to stick with your passion through thick and thin.

However, I don’t dare to claim I’ll die with Red Hat Factory.

The American Hotel at Cerro Gordo, interior.
Interior of the American Hotel, pre-fire. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

When the fire struck, I think the commitment showed. They will have to rebuild it from scratch, and winter is coming. But Brent refuses to sell and leave. With his goats and his score of kittens for company, he keeps working away at the place, all the while delivering reality-tv of the best kind.

The kittens of Cerro Gordo.
Brent and his litter of kittens. Photo: Screenshot from Ghost Town Living YouTube Channel.

Each video drops little bits and pieces of history, often based from things he discovers while scavenging the mining shafts.

Mine shaft discovery — hunting for denim in the Silver Mines

A large part of life at Cerro Gordo, as I already mentioned, is exploring mines. The land is so riddled with shafts and tunnels, that Brent can literally head out on his huge property with no plan, and go look for signs of humans, and it leads him to a shaft. The trails of drinking bottles, tuna cans and metal pieces often lead us up to the gaping dark entrances, and in we go.

The amount of tunnels and shafts that crisscross subterranean Cerro Gordo is astounding. Kilometer after kilometer of undiscovered territory, just waiting to be searched for 150+ year old artifacts. Maybe it was just a can of tuna for the hungry miner of 1865, but for us it’s a treasure of history.

The main treasure he’s looking for is denim — and I know a lot of you Red Hatters love denim. If you find a pair of original 150 year old Levi’s jeans, they can go for quite the sums. Levi’s themselves, among others, will buy it back from the finder.

Lost jeans however is a whole another area to dive into. I am aware of the subculture of denim hunters — and if you’re one of them, please reach out to me and tell your story. The Red Hat community would love to hear all about that!

I, for one, am excited to keep following the journey of Brent Underwood and Ghost Town Living as the area slowly gets restored.

Here’s the video that reeled me in.

How to Declutter Your Digital Life

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on November 10, 2020 in News Reel Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Watching a documentary about being to addicted to the screen is kinda paradoxical isn’t it? Anyhow… that’s what I did.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how much of my life really is digital.

I like to listen to a podcast in the morning while I hang out with my son. I work with design and programming the whole day, and then often watch a screen or listen to some kind of audio in the evening.

It’s shocking at times to assess the time you put down on certain things.

Now, I think all-things digital are awesome. The screen can hold an array of great hobbies, or a job you enjoy. But as with all good things, too much isn’t good.

A couple of Saturdays ago, me and my family decided to take a digital off-day and drop both audio and screen time for the entire day. It was such a detox, and so much easier when we didn’t do it alone.

Digital declutter day means hanging with my son. And since we’re a beanie-brand, of course there has to be a Bay Bee on the picture.

We (as a general culture) suffer from sensory overload all the time, and if we don’t get ahead of it, it can consume us. Doing a detox when you’re in a more busy period, is necessary, but can be hard.

I have at times done a few tweaks to my life that turned out helpful, and I thought I’d share them.

1. Only turn on notifications on the most essential of apps

My Facebook and my Instagram (which I need for work) always have notifications turned off. Still I don’t miss a thing, because I check them. The difference is, I decide when it’s time to do it, not digital dings from my devices.

This helped me much more than I had anticipated.

When last summer came around, I was pretty stressed out, and I decided to delete both Instagram and Facebook. It wasn’t that I never would use them, but if I did, I’d have to install them first.

The amount of times I mindlessly took my phone up and swiped from screen to screen, realizing there were nowhere to go, was outright scary.

After that detox lasting about a month, I still use both FB and IG way less (months and months later).

It kinda got out of my system.

2. Get a non-digital hobby

My mother loves knitting, as y’all know by now. Your knit products from Red Hat Factory may or may not have been knit on a roadtrip, on an airplane, during a family birthday gathering or my mom’s fun night out with friends. She knits till her hands burn, and then some more.

If you have a digital hobby, I believe it’s important to pair it with a physical one, because a screen is both a stimulant, and more straining on your eyes than you think.

Woodwork, reading or getting out in nature — whatever’s not on a screen — puts the eyes (and maybe even the soul) to rest.

Maybe it’s time to go on those hikes you watched on Instagram instead of just liking them?

You can read about a great hike in Norway right here.

Hiking Besseggen to rest
From our hike to Besseggen, Norway in 2019.

3. Decide what to do before you do it

Having a lot of ADHD tendencies, this one is the hardest for me, and I bet some, if not all, of you can relate.

I get an idea and act on it very fast. I’ll be sitting working on an article for Red Hat Factory, when an idea for a great Instagram Reel pops up, and suddenly I’m there, looking for material for that Reel. And the article… well, he is crying alone in my drafts.

It’s so easy to just pop open Instagram and start scrolling. What if instead you were intentional. No shame in wasting three hours scrolling through memes if that was what you needed. But randomly ending up in such a rabbit hole because you didn’t think before you picked up your phone, is worse.

I try to start my mornings (being self employed) deciding what to do and making a to do list. Thinking before I jump into it. And when it comes to new ideas for Red Hat Factory, I try to run them by someone else before deciding.

Man in Norwegian cabin
Map out the way before you start walking.

4. Saying “no” is actually more important than you think

One of the best things I did after this summer was going though all my side projects and just shutting them down one by one.

“No, I’ll not do that this season,” and “this one has to go…” and “you must die. Sorry…”

It might sound like you’re killing creativity by shutting down creative side-projects, but if you have too many of them, it might be just what is needed.

In my case I shut down almost everything but Red Hat Factory, and work has been more refreshing than ever since then. All my stray ideas can be snuffed out instantly, leaving space for me to go through with the “non-stray” ones, and give them the time it takes to be done properly.

This is literally why the new sweater finally came out. And two new products are already in the making.

Hand knit wool sweater in Norwegian mountains
This sweater is literally the result of carving out time for Red Hat Factory by saying “no” to a lot of other things.

Wrapping up

I am in no way a “chill out-guru,” but as you might or might not know, one of Red Hat Factory’s value statements is the following.

“Our aim is to honor handcrafting skills passed down through generations, and to reclaim that space of no-stress that gives a worker the ability to perform his or her best while enjoying the craft.”

So seeking out chill spaces is part of our core.

My mom chilling and knitting.

Speaking of staying with one activity at a time. I began (and finished first draft) of this article after beginning to watch a Netflix documentary about social media.

I got 10 minutes and 37 seconds in, before my mind started wandering, and this article came to life.

I could chalk it up to ADHD, but even if life’s various challenges are different for all of us, I still believe that we should play our very best game with the cards we’re given. And playing your best game requires putting as many distractions as possible aside.

Now, what are your best tips for decluttering our digital lives?

Five Things You Might Not Know About Our Wool Sweater

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on October 26, 2020 in Essentials Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

When we were releasing our new sweater the All Man’s Right, we posted a series of five facts about the product to our social media, as we were dropping it. Here are the five points.

1. It’s hand knit

In fact all the products here at Red Hat Factory are hand knit. It is kind of our basic idea. We want to push back against a culture of over consumption and over production, and we do it by putting a bit of spotlight on the handmade.

There is something to a handmade product that makes it a special keepsake. You know it took time, and you know someone personally sat down and made what you now hold in your hand.

Norwegian tailored hand knit wool sweater

2. It’s tailored

While one-size works for our beanies, it won’t work for a sweater. Tailoring each sweater, of course, only kicks the handmadeness to the next level. You give us a list of measurements outlined on the product page, and we deliver a sweater that specifically suits you.

Norwegian tailored hand knit wool sweater

3. It takes 40 hours to knit

This may be shocking to some. A full work week? Sometimes it takes more, sometimes less, but 40 is a good average.

Had you hired for example a mechanic for those hours, you’d be spending tens of thousands of kroners (Norwegian currency), so how come we can charge what we do for the sweaters?

The art of sweater knitting is ancient, and therefore it comes with a culture where it was the housewife creating products to protect her own family through the cold Nordic winters.

It didn’t come out of a commercial idea.

Therefore genuinely hand knit sweaters are mostly made and given as gifts from Norwegian mothers to their children. Sales mostly go for mere symbolic sums.

We can however justify selling so many work hours for a package price because of a little quirk. My mother don’t ever stop knitting. On an airplane, in the car, at a party, hanging out with a crew of like minded knitters, she never stops!

That is why the products go out at the price they do. She would have knit them anyhow. But don’t go looking for a career in knitting if you want to get rich. This is a product of pure passion.

Norwegian tailored hand knit wool sweater

4. It’s our own pattern

Tying back into the angular style of Norwegian traditional patterns, my mother made her own. This is nothing new to her, since she has been designing unique sweaters and patterns for years, but I must say she outdid herself on this one.

With this pattern, we went for a simplicity that could suit the all-man, but still looks completely Nordicly traditional.

Norwegian wool sweater in the mountains

5. It’s 100% wool

Our earlier products have been respectively 80 and 85% wool, because of how the different properties of those mixtures of yarn benefit those products. The wool sweater however was the first perfect fit for a 100% pure sheep wool yarn, and I am very happy to say so.

The closer to nature the better.

How to Care for a Wool Sweater

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on October 24, 2020 in Essentials Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

A Red Hat Factory wool sweater is knit the old way with 100% wool, and is therefore in demand of a bit more care than your average cotton hoodie.

Like a nice pair of leather shoes needs their oil, our tailored hand knit sweater, the All Man’s Right, needs some love. These are general tips for most wool sweaters though, so feel free to use the guide for your own home knit sweater as well.

Nothing beats a hand knit wool sweater.

The most important points

  • Wash at 40° wool setting.
  • Don’t hand wash.
  • Don’t tumble dry.
  • Dry laying down.
  • It will require patching up.

But please continue reading.

Washing your wool sweater

My mother actually warned me not to hand wash my sweaters. The gentle lapping of the wool setting on the washing machine is better, since it repeats the same patterns back and forth without twisting the wool.

If your wool setting centrifuges it, don’t worry. The setting knows what it’s doing.

Drying your wool sweater

First of all: For God’s sake, do not tumble dry any wool! That turn it into something else entirely.

While that is obvious to a lot of you, the next advice is not equally intuitive.

I did the mistake that I hung one of my sweaters it up to dry. This resulted in a bad stretch. Wool sweaters have to dry laying flat. For example, spread it out across a wash stand.

Patching up a wool sweater

If you have some skill in knitting or in sowing you may patch the sweater up yourself. Otherwise we offer a patching service for buyers of our own All Man’s Right sweaters.

You’ll want to know a few things about tearing and patching.

How often do you need to patch it up?

This varies a lot from person to person, but I’ve found on my four wool sweaters I’ve needed about a patch every third year (on each sweater). The most important thing is to patch it up as soon as it gets a tear, before it starts unravelling.

Patches look like patches

Yes. We won’t be able to perfectly patch it up, so like a scar, it’s going ot get strong again, but the memory of the injury will be visible. This, in my opinion, is something positive. The lore of your sweater only grows. Also, the coloring of different batches of yarn differ slightly, so the patches may also have small color varieties. (Which in my opinion is totally epic).

Wool sweater with patch.
The patch on one of my wool sweaters’ elbow.

It think that is all you need to know to be ready to adopt a genuine hand knit wool sweater, and ensure a long and happy life for it.

4 Outfits That Go With a Red Cap

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on October 16, 2020 in Essentials Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

The red hand knit cap is the beginning and the heart of our company. Everyone from Jaques Cousteau to Kanye West wears them. But what outfits go well with a red beanie?

1. Red cap, blue denim shirt — Marvin Gaye, Jaques Cousteau, Steve Zissou

They are poster children for the red cap, and are mentioned a lot in Red Hat Factory articles. What all their iconic outfits have in common is the red/blue contrast, which is one of my personal favorites. I often wear a denim shirt with my red cap.

2. Red cap, green jacket — Kanye West

In nature, the red cap stands out, and that is kind of the point. Wearing military style greens with the cap is never a mistake. Especially if you’re out hunting and want to avoid being mistaken for a moose.

As you blend with nature, the cap pops even more.

It is yet another favorite for us at the Factory.

3. Red cap, yellow rain jacket

Yellow has become the iconic color for rain jackets. Red is the same for knit caps. Two bright icons together creates a colorful collision. Also, the rain jacket as a fisherman’s working wear, draws out the history of the fisherman beanie in your outfit.

Red cap, yellow rain jacket.
The red cap goes so well with a yellow rain jacket.

4. Red cap on a monochrome backdrop

Black and white are seldom wrong “color” choices when it comes to lending voice to other pieces of apparel. If you want your beanie to shine, why not go monochrome — white or black?

Red cap on black and white shirt
Black and white, with a radiating spot of red.

Confidence

Here at Red Hat Factory we are much more interested in seeing what you can come up with.

How you integrate our caps into your style is way more fun than telling you how to do it. That is why we deliver our hand knit pieces as a long “sausage” of wool that you fold yourself.

After all, though it’s a corny thing to say, the best piece of apparel is actually confidence.

Røldal Part III — Rainy Days

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on October 13, 2020 in Adventure Stories Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

The third day in Røldal sees rainclouds traveling across the layered mountains to cover the valley where we are huddled up in the small red cabin.

Rain, however, doesn’t mean we need to abstain from adventuring. It simply means we must get dressed against the elements. And maybe also do what we decide to — make it a roadtrip.

There is a path Asbjørn knows that will take us through the township of Røldal, then up and up on winding gravel paths that dig deep into the mountains.

The Blueberry Valley it is called.

Cabin fever

Rain hangs thickly in the air as we take the narrow gravel road from the cabin and head towards the township. Here we will buy some road snacks and then head right up into the mountains.

Snack packed, we go.

As we first crest the top of the winding road, we see a cabin. A small old mountain cabin, that probably has been used by shepherds at some time in history.

The rain is already way lighter.

Shepherd cabin in the Norwegian mountains
The lonesome cabin in the hills.
Shepherd cabin in the Norwegian mountains
The cabin is run down, and makes a fine subject.

The old faithful VW is on the road again, like so many times before. It makes for a spacious hangout while the rain occasionally comes pouring.

Roadtrip in Norway
The old faithful VW of my parents.

Your own personal glacier

At the end of the gravel road, which runs surprisingly far up the valley, we have to leave the car. That does not mean we have to stop though. There’s a path following a river further upwards, and at the top are small snow patches, that I like to call tiny glaciers.

One of those become our target.

The glaciers are small compared to the mountainous surroundings, but in reality I can walk fully upright under the crest of them.

Snow and river in Norway
Melting glaciers proving drinking water for the Norwegian people through the summer.

In the end we rest at the top and enjoy the view. A view that is far better enjoyed with a friend than alone.

A Norwegian friend

Night falls, along with the rain

In the end we are back. Hungry, and ready for rest, we start cooking while the darkness wraps itself around the tiny red cabin. Tomorrow it’s time for the return home.

Little red cabin in Røldal, Norway
The tiny red cabin.

All the pictures from this story, plus the other chapters are gathered under #rhfgoestorøldal on Instagram.

Also, all our Adventure Story pictures are found under the hashtag #rhfadventurestories.

Jaques Cousteau — A Deep Dive

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on October 6, 2020 in Essentials Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

He gets a lot of mention on Red Hat Factory. The legend, the sea farer — or more accurately, below-sea farer — the style guru for Red Hatters across the world, and diving equipment development pioneer. But was he also a megalomaniac? Let’s find out.

Born 1910 in France, his career first pointed him towards the air. He had completed mostly every step on the way to become a naval pilot, when luck struck him.

He broke both his arms in a car accident.

Jaques and his son Philippe Cousteau
Jaques and his son Philippe Cousteau.

It broke him out of his current career path, and maybe it made him think twice. After that accident, he chose to pursue his passion for the ocean, for which he would devote his whole life.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Cousteau the documentary film maker

At the beginning of WWII, Jaques-Yves Cousteau and his wife Simone took refuge in Megève, a small village near the French Alps — not far from Mont Blanc. Here he met Marcel Ichac.

Cousteau and Ichac had one thing in common — documentary films. Ichac’s passion for showing inaccessible mountains to the public, and Cousteau’s passion for the depths, made for an interesting duo.

Jaques Cousteau filming under water.
Jaques Cousteau filming under water.

It began a long line of documentary releases, some of which made film history.

“Every explorer I have met has been driven—not coincidentally but quintessentially—by curiosity, by a single-minded, insatiable, and even jubilant need to know.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau — The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus

In 1943, they won their first prize for a co-made documentary called Par dix-huit mètres de fond, or in English, 18 meters deep. It was filmed on the French Embiez Islands with no breathing equipment.

The camera was always with Cousteau, and his two main interests remained diving and film making through his life.

His most significant release was without a doubt The Silent World, which won an Academy Award for best Documentary Feature, and was the first ever documentary film to win an Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was cut from 25 kilometer of film reel, filmed over 2 years, and brought the depths to the public like never before.

The Silent World, by Jaques Cousteau movie poster.
The Silent World movie poster.

Cousteau, inventor of the Aqua-Lung

The desire to go ever deeper and unveil hidden depths to the public, drove Cousteau and his crew to ever greater lengths. The next film Épaves, or Shipwrecks, was filmed using the first ever Aqua-Lung prototype.

The Aqua-Lung is the invention that brought air-tank based diving equipment to the general public, and Émile Gagnan, a French engineer, together with our man Cousteau are credited with its creation.

Jaques Costeau dressed up in diving equipment
Jaques Costeau dressed up in diving equipment.

The Aqua-Lung was not a completely new idea — few inventions are — but it came from a couple of other genius contraptions combined to maximize the time one could spend underwater.

Once again it was Cousteau’s desire to go deeper that drove the innovation forward. And it would be far from the last time.

“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Cousteau, Captain of the Calypso

For some years Cousteau worked with the brand new Underwater Research Group, which was created by the French navy to add force behind his endeavors to explore the depths.

His time within the group led him on everything from mine-clearing missions, to rescue operations, to spying endeavors across the entire world. All along, he pioneered underwater technology and explored further possibilities.

The Calypso, Jaques Cousteau's ship
The Calypso, the iconic home base of Jaques Cousteau.

After a few years he left the navy and leased his now infamous ship, the Calypso. The lease was one franc per year — a mere symbolic sum — and the ship became his home base. A research vessel fitted for diving and documentary film making.

“The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Cousteau, maker of the diving saucer

It was during his time on Calypso, after years of experience and clout generation, that he teamed up with Jean Mollard, and they built the commonly dubbed “diving saucer.”

It was exactly what it sounds like — a flying saucer that could go to 350 meters of depth. The official name was SP-350 and the nickname, Denise. It could handle a crew of two, laying down, and was famously used by Cousteau to explore the wreck of HMHS Britannic.

Jaques Costeau's diving saucer, SP-350, or "Denise."
The diving saucer, SP-350, or “Denise.”

Actually, the search for Britannic, which is a sister ship of the Titanic and the Olympic, began under quite interesting circumstance.

Jaques Cousteau was in Greece looking for Atlantis. Yes, that Atlantis — the legendary city, sunken in the sea.

He didn’t find the city, but during his time there, he was contacted by the Titanic Historical Society, who wanted him to search for Titanic’s lost sister. The Britannic had sunk at some unknown location while serving as a hospital ship during WWI. This one he did find, and its discovery began what would mount up to 68 manned dives to the wreck by Jaques and his team.

One of these dives, in Denise, happened when Jaques was 67 years old, and it became one of Cousteau’s deepest dives ever.

Cousteau, creator of the Conshelf underwater colony

Astronauts actually owe a lot to Cousteau. He was among the first to spearhead a humane habitat in an atmosphere not fit for human life. Under the sea, he built a village, where him and his crew could spend months at a time.

The Conshelf II.

There has been a Conshelf I, II, and III built and launched.

The Conshelf I.

One of the shelfs even had a docking station for Denise.

Obviously, the adventurers were studying ocean life while they lived down below, but also, their living situation provided insight into how a different air pressure affected humans. Their hair and beards grew slower, but cuts healed quicker. It was an alien world, and they made it habitable in a whole new way.

The Conshelves are covered in much more detail in this brilliant Medium article.

“The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.”

Jacques Yves Cousteau

Cousteau the megalomaniac

There is a Jaques Cousteau quote that’s circulating the internet. It’s pretty shocking, and after some research, it turns out it’s completely genuine.

“In order to save the planet it would be necessary to kill 350,000 people per day.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

The quote in its context is just as bad as it sounds. Talking to UNESCO about what we could do to eliminate human suffering and disease, he replied that it was probably not a great idea to do, since for the planet to survive we would have to eliminate 350,000 people a day. (My understanding of the quote is that we should let nature run its course on the sick, and don’t interfere.)

Lightly perusing Jaques Cousteau’s life, you see an otherworldly, almost painting-esque adventurer, but if you dig a bit deeper, his humanity shines through, in all its imperfection. And as you’ll see, he was a man willing to admit to his shortcomings.

I am not a fan of holding a man to his mistakes, but this is a side of the picture that needs painting as well, if we’re doing the deep dive.

Costeau the environmentalist

Many connect Jaques with a fiery engagement for nature — as we saw on the earlier quote — but for him to become the spokesman for mother nature that he became, a complete u-turn was required.

During the filming of The Silent World, Cousteau and his crew famously injured a whale on purpose, thus attracting sharks who ate the poor fellow — all for the movie shots.

At another time they used dynamite near a coral reef to study the species that come floating to the surface — something that to your modern ears may sound worse than the filthiest swearword.

Jaques Cousteau diving with flares.
Revealing the world below.

However, later in Cousteau’s life he did a 180, and began speaking up for the ocean big time.

To such a point was his turnaround that he is said to have insisted on sharing the clips where him and his crew mistreats oceanic life to create great shots — instead of attempting a cover up.

Though he tried to dive ever deeper, he was willing to let his humanity float to the surface.

“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”

Jacques Yves Cousteau

In the beginning of his career, movie making seems to have taken the front seat, and the ocean was only a tool to be manipulated in ways to get the best shot. However, as his understanding of the ocean, and its relationship to humankind deepened, the focus turned.

His turnaround engagement resulted in the founding of the Cousteau Society for the Protection of Ocean Life, which still is actively teaching people across the globe about the ocean and its ecosystems.

Costeau the Red Hatter

Here at Red Hat Factory, of course, we connect with Jaques not only as fellow adventurers with a passion for creating wilderness-related media, but also through our namesake red hat.

The Undersea World of Jaques Cousteau
Jaques becomes a tv-series host.

The red knit cap that Jaques Cousteau wore became an icon, very much because of the man himself (and his crew, who also wore them). (Wes Anderson also had a role in bringing it to the next generation.)

After having spent most his life on sea, he slowly became a tv-personality and a household name. Through both film and tv he made his way into people’s living rooms, thus connecting the red hat with adventure forever and after.

The red hat has a whole story in itself, running back through the navy, but that’s a subject for another article. All we need to cap this article off (pun not intended), is a fantastic quote from one of Cousteau’s tv-appearances.

“The Calypso crew and I will be undertaking a series of voyages of exploration and discovery in all the seas of the world. We have few rules and no uniforms, only the right cap.” 

Jaques-Yves Cousteau

And so do we. The world is at our feet, and we have few rules — only the right cap.

Cousteau continues to inspire, not only for his hunger for the deeps, and skill in the craft of film making, but for his willingness to change as he went along in life, and to not attempt a perfect fasade.

The History of the Fisherman Beanie

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on September 10, 2020 in Essentials Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

Rough, sturdy and simple — the working class fisherman and his rough knit cap has ever been an inspiration for how we knit our products. But how deep into that history can we dig?

We already wrote a whole article about the Steve Zissou hat, and how that has shaped our beanies. Steve is a fictional character who draws his inspiration from red beanie wearing, submarine genius Jaques Cousteau. But what inspiration was he drawing on? — what connected beanies to the seafarer in the first place?

History of the fisherman beanie

I’d love to come up with something deeply symbolic, but I think history is very simple — yet beautiful — when it comes to the fisherman beanie.

Imagine coastal society. It’s a time when most women are the keepers of the house, while the men are out providing for the family’s economical needs.

“The Knitting Woman” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Say what you want about gender roles — I’m not here to discuss that, but simply to dig into history.

There are deep historical roots to why knitting is prevalent among women in Norway (where Red Hat Factory comes from) to this day. I know my mother learnt it from her mother, who again probably learnt it from hers — the roots stretch far back.

Those days were a time when the woman was tasked with actually protecting the household against the elements — and among the responsibilities was keeping her family warm at the onset of winter.

In our imagined little coastal society, not all the fishermen could afford a water proof sou’wester, so the next best alternative stood in line. Wool was readily available, and the property of wool that isolates even when wet made it a fine second choice.

So she knits him a beanie, tight knit because of years of skill (she has knit for every one of her seven kids) and full of care because she desperately wants her man to come home from the sea, today as every day before.

“The Old Fisherman” by Paul Crompton. The fisherman wears the more sophisticated sou’wester.

In this way the hand knit fisherman beanie represents a simple life of hard work and survival that most people through history has lived.

It is good to look at history for perspective, and maybe to gain some gratefulness.

Real fishermen beanies

Finding images of actual fishermen, wearing beanies is tremendously hard. The modern trend of the fisherman beanie has taken over image searches, pushing the black and white genuine photos aside.

Mostly whenever I find a picture of what we would call a fisherman beanie today, it turns out to be a modern day portrait, taken with a vintage style. The real pictures I’ve found however, reveals something very interesting.

It seems that people put whatever they wanted on their heads before heading out to sea. And that is just how we like it.

The super long fishermen beanies with pom-poms

You might have noticed on the first picture, beside Cousteau, that the fisherman has an incredibly long beanie with a pom-pom at the end.

The style derives from fishing societies in Portugal, specifically the Povoan culture.

The culture was centered around fishing. Their legends and their religion — it all swirled around the sea, sea creatures and fish. Saint Andrew was believed to fish the souls of the perished at sea into heaven, and they avoided work on Sunday because of an old legend about a sea serpent punishing people who violated the holy day of rest.

Most importantly though, they wore the longest fishermen beanies the world has ever seen with pom-pom and all — and with that they sported the wildest sideburns known to man.

Deeming from the last illustration, the beanies were even red. And you know exactly how we feel about that!

The Shaping of Our Beanie Models

Written by Benjamin Antoni Andersen Published on September 4, 2020 in Essentials Designer and instigator of Red Hat Factory, constantly hungry for mountainous adventures.

When we set out to design the first ever Red Hat Factory model, we didn’t go looking for the spectacular. Quite the contrary.

Looking at products and heritage items we consider absolute classics, we noticed one commonality. The classic yellow rain jacket, rough worn oak tables, faded leather belts, the knives that my dad has hanging on his wall, that we have used on all my childhood adventures — they all share one trait.

Simplicity.

From the outset, we knew we were making a product the old way — the way it’s been done from generation to generation. And wanting to also create a product that would be appreciated for generations, I let my mom take me back in time, showing me an array of basic simple knitting methods and their aesthetics.

Red beanie on Norwegian traditional wool sweater.
What we in Norway call ribbestrikk. It’s one of the basic tools of the craft. Here a Southlander is laying on a Norwegian Setesdalsgenser — a regional traditional sweater pattern.

Following the red thread

I’ve learned through both design and writing, that the creative process often starts with a more bloated product, and then is slimmed down through the cutting off of unnecessary features.

I am sure a lot of you can relate that to your own work. We often over-design — then cut back.

For the first Red Hat Factory cap, we went through 5–10 different models, and model by model we dropped things. First the unique knit pattern along the edge, then the shaped panels that gave an approximate head shape to the product.

Four red beanie styles
An extremely rare photo of some of the pre-production experimental models. My wife right there in the middle. Most, if not all these beanies are given away a long time ago.

Finally, after hours upon hours of work, I dropped a final idea on my mother. “What if we just make the hat a tube, and let the owner shape it by wearing it.”

It sounds boring, but in all its simplicity, it actually worked best.

And the people loved it.

“The quality is amazing, and I know I’ll be able to use it for years to come!”

Morten Furre, Australia

“Fantastic quality, durable and stylish. Each Red Hat has been hand crafted with love and attention to detail.”

Greg Burkin, Canada
Red beanie on Norwegian traditional sweater.
The final beanie is just a tube sown together on the top. You create the fold yourself.

“[The Southlander] is by far my favorite – it’s quality top notch and unlike my other beanies it feels just perfect. Whether you’re dressed up and going out on the town or just heading to the store this is a must for any occasion.”

Nathan Pearson, USA

“I am using the Southlander pretty much every day.”

Asbjørn Østreim, Norway

“Like a good wine, this gets better with age.”

Billy Chester, USA

We knew we had hit something.

First model down

Finally the first of what was to become the Southlander was off the needles, knit using the technique called ribbestrikk in Norwegian, and sowed together in an x on the top. Nothing more nothing less.

Red beanie in Stockholm
Me randomly snatching brand photos while hanging out with friends in Stockholm. This is the first Southlander ever made (at the time called “the Rounded”) and I still have it at home.

The tube shape makes it look small when you get it, but once it’s had some time to shape itself to your head, it becomes better fitted to you than any pre-formed shape could bring.

Also, since the cap is a simple tube with no defined edge, you control how you fold it. We have another article that dives deeper into possible folding styles.

From fishermen to carpenters, the simple, yet gritty style of a workman’s beanie has been a hallmark of the hard working craftsman.

Simple is classic.

Simple hats, simple brand

When we first released the beanies to the webshop, the Southlander was simply named the Rounded. And paired with the simple design and the simple name, came a very simple sketched icon.

First brand of the rounded red beanie.
The first Red Hat Factory product — the Rounded.

The whole brand was built and centered from the historic notion of the old beanie, knit by a wife before she sent her husband out on the sea to haul fish nets in the pouring rain.

While he is out fishing, the woman gets a business idea, and hastily she sketches down a few beanies with her pen. Then she sighs and peers out the window, wondering whether he will return today or not.

Little did that proverbial woman know she was planting the seed of Red Hat Factory to come.

That is the story behind the type of assets we use in the brand to this day. They have evolved a lot, but the style remains. Mom-made. Home made. Simple lines.

Three red beanies.
The three beanie models we have today, with the overhauled brand names.

A Point to the Round

The North Cap was at first a failed attempt to cap off the beanie in a round fashion. It became pointier than it was supposed to.

When my quirky brother in law saw it, however, he loved it more than what I considered the final product. I soon realized we needed a second model. Based on the first, but with a touch of different, for the more explorative soul.

In line with the simple brand, we just named it the Pointy Tip.

Red beanie.
The second model’s initial branding.

Its base was, and still is, exactly the same as the Southlander, but it caps off in a peak rather than a half circle, making it the first choice of the ones who wants a basic cap, but with a slight edge to it.

Red beanie brand
The simple branding process. In the first round of branding material, not much changed from final sketch to digitalized asset.

It still is a classic though, and draws much of its inspiration back to the movie The Life Aquatic, which itself draws on the real life character Jacques Costeau.

Children Invade the Brand

A long time we only had two models, one color. And I refused every suggestion for additional colors and other products — very purposefully. I felt like if we were going to be the Red Hat Factory, we need to have at least a year, where we are just that — a factory of Red Hats.

As a side note, we aren’t really using a factory — it is true hand knit. But that is a different story.

The third beanie model, the Bay Bee, has a boringly simple history. When a friend, in our early days, asked if we had one for children, we said yes, and made a smaller version of the Southlander.

Not much more to say on that.

There is an interesting feature to the baby model, however. You know how I told you that the wool beanies are very small, and stretches a lot to fit your head. This is just how wool needs to be to properly fit you. On the Bay Bee, this makes the beanie fit from babyhood to 3-4 years old, but look very different at each stage.

You can see we stuck with the simple names, but you’ll notice, the following drawing is a little more polished around the edges than its predecessors. This actually inspired me to rebrand and rename all the beanies in turn.

First branding of the red beanie for babies.
The first Baby model.

Talking of that stretchiness

Most our customers express surprise when they see the size of the new beanie. It is small.

Your average cotton beanie doesn’t stretch a lot, so what you see is what you get. A wollen knit cap will grow with you, and take its shape from your head. In the beginning, the hat can even be a bit slippy for some people, especially when your hair is newly shampooed.

Like a good pair of selvedge jeans, or a new set of leather boots, it needs to be worn in. After that, it will be your most trusty friend.

No brand for a reason

Many also express surprise at the lack of any brand assets on the cap. You get a Certificate of Authenticity upon purchase, and there will be stickers in the box — but the beanie itself is completely bare.

Red beanies in a stack.
The branding is found separately on the box and on stickers — but the beanie itself is bare bone.

We chose this because of the history of the brand. Taking the experience of growing up with a knitting mother and bringing it to you. When she knit me a piece, there was no brand. It was pure, just a gift of love from a parent to a child, and therefore we keep the beanies pure.

Washing instructions are found on the web.

With the lack of brand, the texture of the beanie needs to stand out even more, and so it does. We chose wool partly for its features (isolates even when wet), but also a lot because of its look. Gritty and rough, connecting you with the hard worker on the seas a hundred years ago, the construction workers balancing the beams of Empire State Building when it came up, and the kind hands that knit it — stitch by stitch, with care.

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