Sudbury·Video

Alex Tilley, inventor of Tilley hat, set to retire

The fate of the Tilley hat is in limbo, as the inventor, Alex Tilley, has announced he’s retiring at the age of 77 and selling his company, Tilley Endurables.

Tilley spent formative years in Sudbury

Hats off

Business

6 years ago
2:09
After 35 years, Tilley Endurables is up for sale as Alex Tilley, inventor and founder, is retiring at 77 2:09
The fate of the Tilley hat is in limbo, as the inventor, Alex Tilley, has announced he’s retiring at the age of 77 and selling his company, Tilley Endurables.

Tilley lived in Sudbury during his teens and came up with the idea for the hat 35 years ago while sailing, and wishing he had a good hat.

“So that led me to work with a milliner and a company which makes sails to get the material and then work with a hat factory that I found in the Yellow Pages,” he said.

“Over a three month period, I was able to develop something that was worthwhile.”

Despite selling his company, Tilley said he wants to remain involved.

“I’d also like to maintain a tie in with the company,” he said.

“I think that I should. Just like … Colonel Sanders did. He sold his company around 1964 but he stayed involved for a long, long time.”

The hats are known for being well-made.

Tilley admitted the hats don’t last forever, but are made to withstand odd situations.

In fact, he said there have been three different times when an elephant has consumed a Tilley hat — and the hat survived.

“[The] director of the Bowmanville Zoo had an elephant that would reach up and snatch off and eat his beloved Tilley hat,” he said.

“In time, everything could come to pass. [He] would wash it and carry on. That … was our best ad ever.”

As for what he’ll do in his retirement, Tilley said there are lots of volunteer endeavours he’d like to spend time on, such as working with the Rotary Club in Cambodia helping children get bicycles.

Listen to the interview on CBC Sudbury's Morning North Radio program below:

On mobile? Click here to listen.

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