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Hats to suit any head and any taste. — Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

STRAW HATS, rain caps, soft hats, riding caps, cricket umpire caps, P-caps, felt hats, Dev Anand caps ... You can cover your head in a hundred styles! And come to Bombay Hat Mart and you can take you pick from a mind-boggling variety.

Why the name Bombay Hat Mart for a Bangalore store? "Because the culture of wearing hats was a trend in Bombay, due to the influence of cine stars," explains Mazhar Khan, who runs the store.

The store was started by Mr. Khan's grandfather, Ibrahim Khan, on Commercial Street, 50 years ago. Mr. Khan claims that they are the only professional hat manufactures in town.

Bombay Hat Mart has its own manufacturing unit, where skilled artisans are employed. The store has adapted itself to the changing trends to suit the contemporary customers' needs. "Unlike other caps, ours don't fly off!" assures Mr. Khan. So those of you who have faced this problem now know where to look for caps that sit really snug. Even horse riding enthusiasts from other cities frequent the store to buy hats.

The Bombay Hat Mart, which began with "saleable hats" (informal and common variety), has over the years diversified into the manufacturing of various types of hats and caps to suit the current-day needs. However, it is interesting to learn that some customers still demand their favourite Jewel Thief caps to suit their formal wear.

"They are generally over 60," says Mr. Khan. He recalls that the Sola topis or the felt hats made here were once very popular and were sold for Rs. 2 each in the initial years. "Many those days sported Dev Anand-style caps, and the sales were good. Perhaps, wearing caps was a symbol of prestige those days," he adds.

Mr. Khan says that they sell about a dozen hats a day on an average, besides customised orders. Caps today are used for promotional purposes and many organisations use it for their advertisement needs. A film like Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, in which Aamir Khan sports a hat all the time, made it also rather trendy to wear a hat.

Hats also form an integral part of a song and dance sequence, and stage shows. Choreographers like Shiamak Davar have their dancers attired in trendy hats that enhance their Western outfits.

One might mention here that the Bombay Hat Mart catered to some of the events of the Miss World fashion show held in 1996.

The store does take up orders and works according to specifications of customers. Lately, observes Mr. Khan, the Khalnayak cap that Sanjay Dutt sported in the movie with the same name is a craze.

The store can be contacted on 5582160.

SHOBA RAO

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