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How a Geek Went From Holiday Help to Hat Designer

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Photos via Ben Walker Art

The folks at Goorin Bros., a hat company we're proud to claim as a San Francisco brand, probably didn't expect their extra help for the holidays to become one of their designers. But Ben Walker is not your typical cash register jockey. The graphic designer, artist, style blogger and now hat designer, has talents bursting from his ears, and an enthusiasm that cannot be ignored. His collection for Goorin Bros. for fall 2013 includes the Bestie cap ($88), a flat-brim, wool baseball cap festooned with Walker's signature Armed Bear in embossed leather ($85), and a matching, reversible beanie ($54). We chatted with the designer about how the collab came about, his fiancé and inspiration (who also happens to be our beauty columnist), and his thoughts on stylish dorks.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how this collaboration came about?
"I have been hustling as an Illustrator/Gallery Artist/T-shirt Designer since graduating from art school in 2006. In 2010 I moved to San Francisco to start my life over. After two years I was officially burnt on working in the fleeting, intangible world of Bay Area gaming companies. I approached Goorin Bros. because their old-world aesthetic and devotion to hand-made products felt very familiar to me. I told them I would work with them in any capacity they needed. This got me in as part-time, Holiday help at one of their stores. That's when I learned the company had a street art-driven line called 1333 Minna. Within a couple months I was able to show my portfolio to owner, Ben Goorin and his lead designer. They had just severed ties with their in-house Minna team, so the timing worked out pretty well for me."

What was your inspiration for the hats?
"I love good, old-fashioned craftsmanship. I'm fascinated by American history and classic elements of style. I also love Rocky & Bullwinkle. Everything I do is a reflection of my love for Americana and pop culture. I want my hats to look good on your grandpa and your favorite rapper. Old School!!"

Are all the hats for men? What kind of guy do you think will be drawn to your designs?
"My designs, (like all "mens" hats, really) are unisex. Girls are especially rocking the reversible beanie and flat-brimmed baseball cap. Anyone who has an appreciation for (and a sense of humor about) classic style would be drawn to my Bestie flat-cap. The hand-drawn herringbone print makes the hat just a little cartoony, so it looks like the wearer stepped out of one of my illustrations. That's my hope anyway."

Will you continue designing hats? What are your plans for the future?
"I love clothes, especially hats, because they evoke characters and stories. I have more designs due out for Goorin Bros. Spring 2014 collection. These hats are inspired by my lovely lady, beauty blogger Amanda Storey. They are designed to help celebrate our upcoming wedding.

I know I'm not a fashion designer but I hope to keep working with hats, T-shirt design, etc. because clothes are just too tempting of a form of expression. We all put SOMETHING on our otherwise naked bodies and present this combination of garments to the public. That's art, man! This is why I launched Grown Ass Geek, a style blog "for men who may own some action figures." The blog helps me learn more about mens style and pass on some knowledge to others in the form of ridiculous, illustrated 'Fashion Tips' and spotlights on other stylish dorks."