Gina Csiffary wants to make Ottawa more stylish, one hat at a time.
Her Bank Street store, Mickle Macks Haberdashery, opened on September 1 and specializes in fancy hats, like fedoras, bowler hats, cowboy hats and dressage hats.
The store carries a variety of accessories for men, but Csiffary said the hats she sells can be worn by anyone.
She decided in April that she would open the store, because she felt Ottawa’s hat wearers were being undeserved by department stores and online shopping.
“I buy things from Amazon but I’m hoping that people realize with hats that you kind of have to see it. I’ve bought hats online and sent them all back,” she said.
She estimates that Toronto has 15 specialty hat stores, but Ottawa had none.
“As a hat wearer I actually previously noticed there was no place to go buy a hat,” Csiffary said. “It’s very difficult if you’re a hat wearer to find a shop in Ottawa that can fill specific needs.”
She said the difference is that so many people in Ottawa work for the government, which she said doesn’t put as much emphasis on dressing up. Lots of people in the city wear ball caps, but the fancy hat wearers are still out there.
“Fedora wearers are further and fewer in between but I’m hoping to bring them closer because you do get a wider brim, you get more protection and you look a lot nicer rather than in a ball cap.”
Csiffary said finding the perfect hat for someone to wear depends on what the person wants to look like, but also depends on their shape and stature.
“I decide based on the shape of the person, the man or woman in front of me, what size brim they can carry,” she said. “If you’re trying to get height or trying to draw attention to something there’s a way to select a hat with the appropriate ribbon and feather to make your look you best.”
She said often people leave the store the first time without committing to a hat, but eventually come back because it feels like they left their hat behind.
Mickle Macks also provides millinery services, repair services for hats, something Csiffary said she had to hire someone to teach her a special course in.
“I wouldn’t say [millinery] is dead but there aren’t any schools or places teaching it, so people who do it now are very few but they’re very dedicated to the art and they pass it down.”
Csiffary is originally from Louisiana, which she said has a more entrenched hat culture. She said she started wearing hats regularly to better protect her skin from the sun.
“I don’t like the sun in my face and the glare on my glasses,” she said. “My dad has some skin cancer so I just made it part of my comfort. I feel protected from the elements if it’s rainy or it’s sunny, or my hair is blowing in the wind.”
The hats she carries range in price from $50 to $1,800. Some of the more expensive ones are made by Lilliput Hats, the company that made hats for The Tragically Hip frontman, Gord Downie.
Csiffary said Downie was “a thing to behold” with his hats on.
“Without his hats it he didn’t look complete, he looked like he was missing his hat, like he forgot his hat, and there’s lots of people that I’ve met since I opened this shop that seem that way."
Mickle Macks Haberdashery is located at 835 Bank Street and open Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.