If you’re a New Yorker, the name Javits is likely a familiar one, thanks to the west side convention center named for long-time and much-beloved senator, Jacob Javits. But in the world of hat and accessory design, there’s another member of the family whose name looms just as large—Eric Javits. Renowned for women’s styles that celebrate his trademark brand of laidback elegance, the multitalented designer has been creating styles worn by celebrities and defining trends in the headwear category for more than three decades, even being named Hat Designer of the decade for the ‘90s. So when the top name in toppers decides to branch out into men’s styles, you know it’s bound to be headline news.
Javits got his start studying sculpture and painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, but his flair for the creative took an unexpected and fateful twist one weekend in the mid-‘70s when he and a friend ventured down to Manhattan for a night out on the town. Having heard about the exclusive door policy at iconic nightspot Studio 54, Javits whipped up a velvet and silk pillbox hat to make his friend’s strapless YSL dress stand out from the crowd. The plan worked when both Javits and his friend were ushered past the hundreds of partygoers waiting in line, and the idea for a new brand was born.
“Undertaking the women’s hat business never felt like a deliberate decision, since it began more like a creative art project,” Javits tells us of his early days, but points out that the current decision to expand into men’s styles was a more considered one. “The men’s launch evolved from guys always insisting that they had to have the hat they saw me wearing. More than a few times, I just surrendered the hat, knowing I could easily replace it. But as I noticed more sophisticated young guys wearing hats, I felt the time had come for me to expand my company’s offerings.”
Those offerings include styles that feel fresh and modern, but employ a material that Javits invented and has been using since 1995, “Squishee.” Seeking a material that could be easily packed and jump back to its original shape after being folded, the designer pioneered a composite of manmade materials that mimic natural straw, but that travel well and pack the added benefit of being rated UPF 50+, blocking both UVA and UVB rays. This innovative fiber is featured in all of Javtis’ new men’s designs, but the styles themselves are just as cutting-edge as the material.
“Men have an unpretentious way of mixing casual, sporty, and practical elements, which aligns with the aesthetic of laid-back elegance of my women’s pieces,” he says. “The Eric Javits man is the guy who has a sense of style and is decisive about what he likes. The men’s hats are not trendy. They feel current, not retro.”
Part of the style’s heritage goes back to Javits’ background in the arts, which he credits for his advantage in terms of shape and proportion. “Like sculpture, a hat is a three-dimensional form, and a man’s face can also be considered as a three-dimensional shape. When the two are juxtaposed, something magical should happen, bringing harmony and balance. This visual magic is easy to recognize but hard to qualify—when a guy puts on the right hat, he will see himself transformed!”