Bes-Ben: Avant Garde

Quirky,whimsical, eccentric or avant garde, whatever one terms it. When we truly think outside the box of conventional, when we allow our imaginations run uninhibited. Results can be mesmerising. One of earliest examples of millinery madness, Bes-Ben.

Known as the ‘Mad Hatter’ Benjamin B. Green-Field was born in 1897. together with his sister Bess, they founded Bes-Ben in 1920 on State Street on Chicago. For the first 20 years, the hats may been pleasant but not special. It was not until the early 1940’s that Bes-Ben found their vision and niche. By focusing on more quirky, surreal headwear, Bes-Ben were propelled in the stratosphere. One noted example was the headwear made for famed columnist Hedda Hopper for the premier of ‘The Razor’s Edge’, adorned with real razors! Or the socialite who attended a charity event called Time for Giving with a head covered with clocks. With such ingenuity and humour, it should come as no surprise that stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich and Lucille Ball wanted a piece of Bes-Ben too.

With prestige comes a higher price tag. Hats could go for an eye wateringly sum of $1,000 (approximately £25,000 today!), however if you were crafty enough. One could buy a designer hat for $5 if you wait until midnight. If only Stephen Jones would do something similar, I would gladly hang around until the wee hours for a cut price couture hat.

Ground breaking milliners who injected chic silliness into headwear. Now Bes-Ben hats are a coveted piece to add to any vintage afficiando collection and rightly so.

bb bird

newsworthy bb

veiled pillbox

holding hands

bb plumage

bb scissors


One comment

  1. His pieces are a great deal of fun!

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