What Makes a Fez?
I remember in the old days when I went to my first convention wearing a fez. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. It was 1990 at a small DC convention called CastleCon. The con was very fun but there were no others who shared my interest in this particular form of hat. I have always loved fezzes but could never find anyone to buy them from. I worked out a deal with Mothmar, a friend from Egypt, who would bring me the occasional Fez that he found in his travels. The seven I collected all where parts of uniforms for various hotels. Then one day I was watching Dr Who and he exclaimed, “Fezzes are cool.” I laughed not really thinking much about it. Some months later I attended a con where I saw three people wearing fezzes. The next con saw more than a dozen. Now when I go to a convention, I see dozens and dozens of fezzes being worn and unlike my seven uniform fezzes, these fezzes had style. They were colorful, had cryptic messages and symbols upon them, and some even had images so horrible that a fear to even write about them. I became curious as to where all of these fezzes were coming from. Who was responsible? Last week while attending Gen Con I may have discovered this long hidden secret. I met Jason Rogers from Fez-o-rama, a manufacturer and retailer of fine fezzes. After a brief conversation I had learned more about fezzes than I had unearthed in the past thirty years.
How did you get into selling Fezzes?
Many years ago, while recovering from cancer treatments, I decided to make my friends fezzes for Christmas presents. We would were them out to dinner or go bowling and were often stopped and asked about the hats. Once while participating in an art show, a few of us wore the hats and there was more interest in the fezzes than in the art I was showing. The next year at the same show I bought a few dozen fezzes and soon after, Fez-o-rama was formed.
Are they popular?
This is a tough question to answer. They are far more popular than I would have ever expected but in the grand scheme, they are far less popular than say a baseball cap. What we do is a bit of a niche. We focus on creativity over popularity. I would rather create a design based on an obscure historical reference than a current meme.
We make them ourselves. I design and pattern the fezzes. I design and engineer the embroideries, we run the embroideries on our two machines, and sew the fezzes in house. We do use a cutting service for the majority of the parts, although we hand cut some of the special fabrics ourselves.
The process starts with my sketchbook, once I have a design concept I will move to the computer for roughing out the art before working up the embroidery file. Sometimes the style of fez I want to do dictates the design but more often than not the art decides what the color and style of the fez will be. After multiple thread tests, the embroidery file will be finalized and production can begin. The velvet shells are embroidered before they are sewn. The linings are usually made in advance since we can store those in bulk while we create new designs. After sewing the shells they are paired with the appropriate lining and finished with the hardware. Tassels, pins and vents are added on demand when the orders come in.
What fez style is your most popular?
We are constantly rotating out styles with only a select few designs staying around for more than a year. Some of our most popular styles from the past are the Cthulhu inspired works based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. We’re currently on our 5th Cthulhu based design and we’re nearing the end of the run for our popular Mystic Order of Elder Gods fez.
Our tiki styles have been a long standing tradition for us and our current Haku design proved to be quite popular as it went through multiple variations over the years.
Of the most recent styles our Mystic Eye fez is having a great year and our latest Phoenix fez debuted at Gen Con and nearly sold out.
Any suggestions for someone who might be considering a fez?
First off, our fezzes are kind of like tattoos, it is hard to stop at just one. I see a lot of people try to find the one single perfect design for them and struggle with the large selection. It doesn’t help that we are constantly introducing new designs throughout the year. Alternatively, if you see something you like I would suggest not waiting too long. We have to retire designs to make room for all of the new stuff we are constantly working on. We constantly get people asking about a design they saw a year ago only to find out that we’ve moved on to something new.
Ultimately if you don’t see a design that grabs you, check back often. There is something completely different on the way.
This was our third Gen Con and as usual it was the highlight of the year. The show is amazing, the people are fantastic and there is so much to see I feel as though I have only scratched the surface. My only complaint was that after two years of abnormally mild weather, this year’s return to the normal heat and humidity of an Indiana Summer was brutal.
What conventions can people find your Fezzes at?
We’re still in the early stages of doing conventions so things change each year but you can find us at a number of shows such as:
C2E2, WonderCon Anaheim, Emerald City Comicon, Phoenix Comicon, Gen Con, and Rose City Comic Con. We’ll also be doing New York Comic Con for the first time this Fall.
We also do a number of tiki events such as Tiki Caliente, Tiki Oasis and Denver Modernism.
Can people purchase them from home?
Absolutely! Just go to Fez-o-rama.com to see all of our fezzes and fez accessories.
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