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Borsalino Milan

An exhibition at Milan’s Triennale explores the power of hats through films, celebrating Italian hat manufacturer Borsalino

To celebrate the Spring/Summer fashion weeks, the historical hat manufacturer Borsalino launched a new exhibition at Milan’s Triennale entirely dedicated to films and hats. Entitled “Il cinema con il cappello. Borsalino e altre storie” (Cinema with a hat. Borsalino and Other Stories), the exhibition can be considered as a journey through the world of millinery divided in different thematic sections.

The multimedia top hat that visitors encounter at the entrance functions as a symbolic time machine: stepping into it they are transported into a world of images and stories, discovering the transformation processes a character goes through by simply donning a hat. 

Among the famous examples included in this section there are also Greta Garbo in Ernst Lubitsch’s Ninotchka (1939), Audrey Hepburn in Billy Wilder’s Sabrina, and Peter Falk in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987), the latter shown as he tries on a series of hats until he finds “the hat that fits the face”.

Hats definitely have special powers: they can make someone laugh or cry, they are symbols of elegance and rebellion and can seduce or frighten. The rituals connected with hats are therefore explored through comedies, spy and noir stories, Western movies and costume films and portraits of famous directors and hat fans such as Federico Fellini and Orson Welles.

The best part of the exhibition is the one dedicated to Jacques Deray’s cult gangster films Borsalino (1970) and Borsalino & Co (1974), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon. The titles of the films were inspired by the golden age of the Italian hat manufacturer whose name was used by the director as a symbol of style and elegance.

The films were also accompanied by the very first major cinematic advertising campaign: when Deray’s first movie came out, period cars driven by men in Borsalino hats could be spotted in many of the cities where the movie was screened; shop windows featured images of the main actors and cinemas offered to their one thousandth customer a voucher for a free Borsalino hat. 

For the second film, Borsalino supplied the production company with original looks from 1934-37 that were later on filtered through the ‘70s aesthetics to create unique hats for each character.

This part of the exhibition also features sketches by Jacques Fonteray for the film costumes and a 1912 documentary directed by Luca Comerio about hat making, considered as one of the earliest examples of fashion in film ever produced in Italy.

To celebrate further its connection with cinema, the Fondazione Borsalino in collaboration with the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia also launched a competition open to all filmmakers and videomakers (under 35) and consisting in shooting a 5-minute short with hats as main theme (deadline 12th February; for further information please contact: Are you ready to take this new Borsalino cinematic challenge?


“Il cinema con il cappello. Borsalino e altre storie” is at Milan’s Triennale until 20th March.