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TWO University of Southern California lads named Bob Tierney and Tom Morey started out to create a super surfboard of glass fiber and honeycomb paper—a heavier version of the kind used to make those Christmas bells. The surfboard broke in two, but they still had a lot of the honeycomb to play with. One day a friend took a disc of it, pulled it down over his head. Pouf! An amusing hat. The paper was a free sample from the manufacturer; it was used in aircraft construction because of its lightness and weight. A disc of the stuff could be pulled and shaped as the wearer desired it; it could be functional, to keep off the sun, or chic—see the pictures.

One of their first customers was Darrylin Zanuck, the movie man’s daughter, who runs a women’s wear shop in Santa Monica. She ordered two dozen, wore one herself, showed them around the 20th Century-Fox Studios. Dody Heath (shown in photos), Joan Collins and Red Skelton (a hat collector) all bought Fan-toppers, as the hats were called. Joan Collins, was pink, to match her sports car. Bob Hope wore one while golfing. Fan-toppers became a fad, and Bob and Tom were soon operating a factory with a crew of seven workers, manufacturing a patented product. With this staff and some simple tools they get out 50,000 lightweight lids a month, each costing 50 cents to make. Retail price is about $2.00.

Neither Bob nor Tom expects to be making Fantoppers forever. But they have lots of ideas—many exciting toys, for instance—and they do expect to stay in manufacturing. They even have a notion of making a super surfboard someday.

  1. StanFlouride says: December 19, 200810:06 am

    DARN! If only JFK had not shown up at his inauguration hatless 14 months later these almost certainly would have caught on!

  2. Jari says: December 19, 20085:15 pm

    And yet, somehow, we don’t see a hats like that in these days. Allthought I have some christmas tree decorations which were made that way.

  3. John M. Hanna says: December 20, 20081:33 am

    It looks like the inside of my car’s air filter.

  4. Emilicon says: January 5, 20093:01 pm

    Fascinating to have followed-up on the two inventors and learned that Tom Morey (now known as ‘Y’ – he’s always been more Y than more) went on to invent various other surf-related items including the Boogie Board.

  5. Emperor MAR says: January 28, 20095:48 pm

    Still looks better to me than Crocs and so versatile!

    If these were marketed again their tag line could be,
    “Fantoppers more versatile than a crocodile”

  6. fran says: December 6, 20099:57 pm

    is there a pattern for this hat?

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