Akubra // is an Australian brand of bush hat, whose wide-brimmed styles are a distinctive part of Australian culture, especially in rural areas. The name is believed to be derived from an Aboriginal word for head covering.
Akubra's best-known hats are made from rabbit fur felt with wide brims, and the term "Akubra" is sometimes used to refer to any hat of this kind. Many Akubras have drawstrings to help keep them on the wearer's head on windy days, as well as adding to the hat's appearance.
Akubra hats are an important part of traditional outdoor clothing in the Australian bush. They are often worn by hunters, farmers, graziers, horsemen, stockmen on the land. As well as protecting their wearers from sun and rain, they are used in less obvious ways: holding eggs or mushrooms, covering the eye of a recalcitrant horse, fanning fires and watering dogs. Akubras have also been worn by some Prime Ministers of Australia, notably Ben Chifley, whose Akubra is in the collection of the National Museum of Australia.
The original hat-making factory, not called Akubra at that time, was founded in the early 1870s by Benjamin Dunkerley. A recent immigrant to Australia, Dunkerley set up shop in Tasmania after inventing a machine that removed the hair tip from rabbit fur, leaving the softer under-fur for use in the making of felt hats.
Dunkerley and his family later relocated to Sydney, in New South Wales, where he hired a young man named Stephen Keir. While working for Dunkerley Hat Mills, Keir married Ada Dunkerley, Benjamin's daughter. After Benjamin Dunkerley's death in 1925, Stephen Keir took over the reins of the company, moving to a larger premises and adopting Akubra as a brand name. The trade name "Akubra" came into use in 1912.
Akubra is famous for providing many of the Slouch hats used by Australian forces in both World War One and Two. In the 1950s, the Akubra Company expanded its range when it won the licence to produce Stetson hats in Australia, and by the 1970s, the business relocated from Sydney to larger premises in Kempsey, New South Wales. Stephen Keir's sons Herbert and Stephen Keir II later ran the company, followed in turn by Stephen Keir III and now Stephen Keir IV. The company is still a family concern. Its current owners are the great, great-grandchildren of Benjamin Dunkerley.
Over 100 different styles, various colours and brim widths are produced in the Akubra hat range.
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- Akubra website
- Akubra hats in Germany
- Akubra France
- Prime Minister Ben Chifley's Akubra, National Museum of Australia