HATS OFF: The German Hat Museum

By German Hat Museum

Deutsches Hutmuseum Lindenberg

 The Deutsche Hutmuseum (German Hat Museum) located in a former hat factory in Lindenberg im Allgäu, a small city in the South of Germany, opened its doors on December 13, 2014. It documents 300 years of history of millinery in the context of the towns history. 

German Hat MuseumGerman Hat Museum

The German Hat Museum celebrates the history, styles and craftsmanship of hats.

German Hat Museum Lindenberg i. Allgäu (2014) by Richie MüllerGerman Hat Museum

The German Hat Museum

In 1997, the town inherited the extensive premises of the former Ottmar Reich hat factory in order to preserve it as a prestigious industrial and cultural monument. The factory building in which the Hat Museum is based today is considered an important contemporary example of Lindenburg's industrial hat production. The Hat Museum illustrates the history of millinery in the context of the town's history, and offers an engaging insight into fashion and manufacturing. Lindenberg's century-old hat tradition is now being revitalized, and visitors can experience it in a new way.

The German Hat Museum is located in picturesque city Lindenberg, Germany.

Business card (1900) by German Hat MuseumGerman Hat Museum

History of the Factory

Lindenberg's largest hat factory—the Ottmar Reich company—was declared bankrupt in 1997, and the town inherited the factory site. The boiler house and just one of the factory buildings were preserved, while all other buildings were demolished. The industrial monument is regarded as an important contemporary example of industrial hat production in Lindenberg. Almost 1,200 people worked there at its peak, making the building itself the first and largest exhibit.

A damp room (1920)German Hat Museum

The business can be traced back to brothers Konrad (1802–80) and Ottmar (1822–72) Reich. Konrad worked for many years as a speculator, buying the cheapest woven straws available and having them made into hats, which he then sold at markets for a profit. Later, his sister-in-law, Theresia Reich (1826–94), took over the business and ran it successfully, and in 1838 her sons founded the Ottmar Reich straw-hat factory.

Application of hat glue (1960)German Hat Museum

The business continued to grow and prosper. In 1886, another building was built, soon to be followed by a bleaching plant, dye plant, steam boiler with a boiler house, and an office building. The Reich company also set up its own accommodation for its workers.

Straw Hat Sewing Machine (2014) by Thomas GretlerGerman Hat Museum

The Origins of Straw Hat Production in Lindenberg

Up to the beginning of the 19th century, arable farming and corn cultivation dominated the Allgäu region. In the 16th century, grain production was vital to the lives of families in Lindenberg, but not enough grain was produced to feed everybody. The population needed another source of income in order to survive. One solution was to process the remaining stalks further and weave long straw braids from them to sew simple hats.

Braid-Production (1926)German Hat Museum

Working at Home

The whole family helped, but it was mainly the women who sewed through the night, making hat after hat.

A homeworking-family from Lindenberg (1920/1920)German Hat Museum

Child Labor

Children were often involved in the sewing process. They were set a target, with their mother determining how many meters of straw the children needed to braid each day.

Pressing machine (1935)German Hat Museum


The first hat factories were established in 1830, and by 1900 there were already 34 straw-hat manufacturers in Lindenberg and the surrounding area, including 14 hat factories with a total of 3,000 workers.

Sewer (1935)German Hat Museum

In 1931, almost 8 million hats were produced in Lindenberg over the year, including 5 million men's hats. Amid the peaceful Allgäu region lay Germany's mecca for men's hats: the "little Paris" of the hat fashion world.

Transportation of strawhat boxes (1920)German Hat Museum

Trade and Export

The prepackaged hats were taken by horse and cart to the train station and loaded onto carriages.

Poster of the Huber Company (1955)German Hat Museum

They were sold in regions as far away as the USA and South America.

Pressing MachineGerman Hat Museum

The Decline of the Lindenberg Hat Industry

In the 1920s, the straw-hat industry was in crisis. Companies tried to counteract this in the following decades using felt, leather, acrylic fibers, and fur, and they achieved this with some success. Nevertheless, hats were much less involved in the fashion of the '60s and '70s, which forced long-established businesses to halt their production. The hat industry lost its key status in the Lindenberg economy. Today, only one famous hat factory remains in Lindenberg, belonging to the company Mayser GmbH & Co. KG.

The Museum's Collection

The Hat Museum commemorates the beginning of modern-day Lindenberg. Over 5,000 artifacts, including hundreds of hats, can be viewed over four floors and 1,000 square meters of space. In addition, the various working steps involved are demonstrated through original equipment and machines. Numerous hat models from every decade show the different fashion styles over the past century. This collection, which includes probably some of the most culturally important hat pieces ever produced, was put together by Hans Stiefenhofer and Manfred Röhrl over several decades.

Boater (1900) by German Hat MuseumGerman Hat Museum

The Matelot

The number one exported product, which achieved record sales, was the matelot hat. One million matelots were shipped out around the world. Active trade relationships existed with South America, the USA, and the whole of Europe.

Boater (1901) by Thomas GretlerGerman Hat Museum

The Matelot

With its unique shape and huge popularity, this hat has many names, including matelot, boater, basher, skimmer, and canotier.

Boater (1920) by German Hat MuseumGerman Hat Museum

The Matelot

A precisely cut brim and flat crown are its main features, as well as a thick ribbon with a side loop. It can be sewed or pressed together from braids.

The Hohenzollern Navy Hat (ca. 1912) by Thomas GretlerGerman Hat Museum

The Sailor Hat

This straw hat was produced by the Ottmar Reich company for the imperial sailors of Emperor Wilhelm II.

Straw Hat (1890) by German Hat MuseumGerman Hat Museum

Ladies' Hats

Around 1910, the first cloche hats for ladies were produced, which fit snugly on the head and were worn low on the forehead. Their shape extends the slim and sporty silhouette of new women's fashion, which became the new beauty standard in the 1920s.

Cylinder (around 1900)German Hat Museum

The Top Hat

FedoraGerman Hat Museum

The Fedora

Panama HatGerman Hat Museum

The Panama Hat

Straw Hat (about 1970) by Thomas GretlerGerman Hat Museum

The Galleries

Permanent exhibition view

Special Exhibitions

The special exhibition spaces on the 2nd and 3rd floors offer a lot of room for special

The Cultural History of Hats

An art installation by Anja Luithle, "Der Huttornado" (The Hat Tornado), greets visitors on the 5th floor. Six dark steel rods twirl white hats around in sweeping ellipses from the floor up to the ceiling. The different replicas of distinctive hat types draw the viewer into the rich and varied cultural history of the hat over the last 300 years. Large-scale photographs and images face the hat tornado, providing historical context and shaping the spatial image. They give second life to these changing fashion trends and complement the products and exhibits in the display cases. This installation, therefore, connects the development of the hat in fashion to both regional trends and international fashion events of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. Depending on the position and viewing angle, different focal points and surprising insights emerge.

Hat Production

The centerpiece of the first exhibition space is the production shelf: a glass cube that you can walk through, illustrating the technical manufacturing processes of hat production.

German Hat Museum Lindenberg i. Allgäu (2014) by Richie MüllerGerman Hat Museum

Research, workshops and events

The Hat Museum offers an extensive educational program for children and students.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps