Will “Lash” LaRue stands in his two-room workspace in Downtown Evansville. In his right hand is a lit blow torch. In his left is one of his hand-made beaver pelt hats consumed by bright orange flames.
The burning is a crucial step in the 26-year-old’s hat-making process, removing excess hairs and creating a water-resistant seal across the material. To outsiders, it’s an intriguing sight, but for LaRue, it’s simply another day at the office.
Nicknamed “Lash” at 7 years old after the western movie star of the same name, the 2014 Mater Dei High School graduate opened Lash LaRue Headwear a year and a half ago after realizing his passion for fashion.
“I always wanted to do fashion, but I didn’t really know what,” says LaRue. “I saw a video (on hat making), and it just kind of clicked.”
LaRue’s “headwear with character” ranges from seasonal or themed collections to custom western, wide brim, and flat brim hats made from beaver felt or authentic Ecuadorian tequila straw. Completely self-taught, the Evansville native fits, steams, shapes, sands, seals, and designs the hats by hand.
Each design is finished with touches such as thrifted fabrics or hand-painted images, a leather headband, and silk interior stamped with LaRue’s logo. The beaver felt products range from $500-$650, the straw from $300-$400. All hats are available for purchase online along with LaRue’s hand-painted apparel.
“The hats embody a lot of my emotions and desires and kind of what I’m feeling at the time,” says LaRue. “They’re extensions of who I am as a person, and I want to translate it into art in a form that’s wearable. These hats aren’t fast fashion, and it’s the sustainability aspect that I really enjoy because these hats are made to last.”
The Last Lash