Mark Mejia, Baron Hat’s Owner and Master Hatter, was born and raised in one of the oldest neighborhoods in the Southeast section of Los Angeles, California.
Perhaps the most treasured memory from his childhood was traveling on the bus with his grandmother to downtown LA and being captivated by movie crews who had transformed the streets into something right out of the 1930’s.
He loved the vintage cars and period costumes, but was absolutely transfixed by the marvelous fedoras and other 30’s era hats. The movie that was filming happened to be “The Sting”, and Mark was more transfixed by the magnificent classic Fedora’s sitting on the heads of super-stars Robert Redford and Paul Newman than in seeing them in person!
This was the beginning of a life-long love affair with hats… and Hollywood. As the years went by, Mark grew up seeing all kinds of fantastic Hollywood productions, both from TV and Motion Pictures shot in and around Los Angeles. Watching the actors in their often stylized hats, Mark soon gained a keen appreciation for the direct connection between an actor’s characterization and wearing just the right hat. Even more so, he quickly realized that a remarkable hat could become a character unto itself.
While in his early 20’s, a chance meeting with an old friend sent Mark to the enchanting town of Montecristi, Ecuador, to look into the fascinating rare art of Panama hats, which are were only made in the region from indigenous palms. Mark was spellbound by the weave of these hats, a weave that felt like silk and the lightest of linen, yet were woven by hand from the local palm leaves. These were hats that also lasted for generations without losing shape or color! He spent almost a year learning the craft himself working with the local craftsmen, and in the process created his own Panama hat company, “DeMarco Montecristi”, which imported these incredible hats, many of which took months to make, to the United States. In the process, he also fell in love with the idea of making his own hats. It was then and there in the enchanting hills of Montecristi, that Mark made up his mind to move back to Hollywood, and fulfill his life-long dream… of becoming “Hollywood’s Hat Maker®”.
Once in Hollywood, Mark realized that if he really wanted to know the craft of making the best hand-made hats in the world, and learning the trade of “Master Hatter”, he had to learn from the absolute very best in the business. That was an easy choice. For in Hollywood, for almost half a century, there was really only one name synonymous with Master Hatter and Hollywood. That was Eddy Baron.
Mustering all his courage, Mark went to see the “larger-than-life” Eddy Baron at his shop in Burbank, California, and asked if he could work for him, and possibly become an apprentice. Mark’s timing turned out to be fortuitous. Eddy, known for his extreme independence, was at a point in his life that he felt it was time to pass along his almost fifty years of hat making experience. Seeing something special in Mark, Eddy agreed, and for several years, Mark worked at Eddy’s side, day and night among the billowing steam, learning everything he could about the craft of hat making — in the very studio where so many of Hollywood’s most famous hats were crafted.
Mark especially loved working with the “blocks”… those specially crafted wood “busts” of the heads of some of the most famous actors and celebrities in the world, who would have their hats made no place else but at Baron Hats, both for their professional work, and for their personal wear. The Baron studios had one of the largest collections of these celebrity blocks in the world, and Mark loved to go into the back room and inspect them for hours, marveling at their workmanship and history!
After working with Eddy for a several more intense years, Mark felt it was time to set out on his own and asked Eddy if he’d be interested in selling any of his blocks. To Mark’s amazement, Eddy offered not only to sell him the blocks, but the entire company! Satisfied that Mark was totally committed to the craft, and truly had the very rare heart and skill of a Master Hatter, Eddy made a deal to let Mark purchase both the studio and all its goods (including those priceless celebrity blocks), along with the legendary name of Baron Hats. Eddy’s “shoes” were indeed hard to fill, but Mark was up to the task having acquired the skills and the passion from the Master himself.
Since Mark bought the business, the legend continues. A new generation of filmmakers have discovered Baron Hats, and hundreds of movies, TV series, commercial, and some of the biggest Celebrities in the music business, along with their Music Video productions and tours seek his unique craftsmanship. People come from all over the world, from the most famous celebrities, to “just plain folk” who want only the best to put on their heads.
Without the fervor that Mark has dedicated to cultivating his craft, the legend and hat making secrets of Eddy Baron may have been lost forever. Mark realizes that he has a awesome responsibility to keep the legend alive. But for all those who have worked with him, and seen the product of his studio… they know that Eddy no doubt made the right choice!