Our history

The circumstances leading to the appearance of hat manufacturing in the Haute Vallée de l’Aude have never been formally established; all we can know about it is based on a tenacious oral tradition that is quite well-founded, perpetuated until today. to the present day and endorsed by the various researchers who have looked into the glorious past of Esperaza.


In 1929, the hat industry employed nearly 3,000 workers in the 14 local factories which made Espéraza famous on all continents; the hat-making city reached second place in the world for manufacturing wool felt hats after Monza in Italy with a production of 1,400,000 finished hats in 1949. Unfortunately, a hitherto unknown factor, Fashion, will lead the hat industry of the Haute Vallée de l’Aude towards an inexorable decline: hats are worn less and less or not at all.

An adventure worthy of an American West epic

From 1765, a few hatters from Bugarach took over the management of the towns of the upper Aude valley and in particular, Esperaza. Our city would have been chosen for its privileged location on the banks of the Aude, thus offering facilities for washing wool, for a cheap source of energy and for more convenient means of communication. Thus, it was from 1830 and especially in 1878, with the arrival of the railway, that the hat industry experienced significant growth in Esperaza. The mid-19th century marks the end of the artisanal period and small workshops. The industrial era and the mechanization of certain stages of manufacturing are taking hold in hat making.


Without an alternative solution despite several unsuccessful attempts, a real economic catastrophe has befallen the Chapellerie Espérazanaise, undermined by closures and bankruptcy filings. From this period, only a small “Chapeaux de France” manufacturing factory remains, located in the neighboring village of Montazels. Fortunately, this traditional know-how is preserved thanks to the Hat Museum created in 1992.

“A big thank you for this visit that you organized for our group. I appreciated the precision, competence and knowledge of our guide Eric both on the making of hats from A to Z and on the history, which the psychological subtlety of maintaining our interest, regulating the energy of disruptive elements and channeling our attention, all this with a lot of relevance and humor. It’s a great success! I didn’t see the hours go by and I I came away enriched by the sharing and discoveries. Thanks also to Thierry! I hope you continue well As they say in English: Take care”
ANGOT Bénédicte from Carcasonne