Hats Made from Bottles

It’s no secret that single use plastic is a major worldwide problem and a quick Google search will give you all the facts about how much we use, how little we recycle, how its production and use is killing life on land and sea and how the toxins are ending up in us. Instead of re telling all of the gory details I want to tell you about how my life as a plastic consumer has changed and why my company is spending extra money to avoid single use plastics.

Ironically it took 36 days sailing on a plastic kayak down the east coast of Australia for me to fully understand the impact of our plastic addiction and how it’s affecting a place my family and friends hold near and dear, the ocean and our beaches. Even in a relatively clean and underpopulated part of the world like Australia’s east coast, our crew was cleaning large amounts of plastic off remote beaches along the 500 mile stretch of coast from Byron Bay to Bondi Beach, Sydney. Each clean-up was counted and documented for the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (Tangaroa Blue). When you have to count and document every single piece of plastic you get a really good understanding of why it’s a good idea to ask for “no straw” at a restaurant or bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store or to get yourself a reusable water bottle and water filter in your home also consider purchasing from companies who go out of their way to avoid single use plastics by using biodegradable materials instead. I do my best to support those companies who care because it’s hard for me to erase the memory of dying and dead bird and marine life. As a surfer and dad of kids who also love the ocean we witness these things that could be avoided with certainly a small financial sacrifice but a larger ecological, environmental and health gain. Unfortunately these type of gains aren’t important to public companies unless people stop purchasing their goods. Only then do they listen.
** disclaimer – I still sometimes forget to bring my re-usable grocery bags and forget my water bottle!!

That journey down the coast was so influential to me that I wrote and recorded a song called “Stuff” and used footage of the trip showing the contrast of two worlds.

Footage and editing courtesy of NZ Greenroom Productions

It’s annoying to me how hard it is to avoid single use plastic. My first try at plastic reduction was at the grocery store. I was able to cut down by making some alternative choices like avoiding vegetables wrapped in plastic but in order to give my family a healthy well rounded diet and completely avoid plastic seemed almost impossible without growing all of our own food and starting a farm. Eventually I was able to reduce it by at least 50% by going to our local farmers market, switching everything I could to non-plastic packaging like glass and cardboard and then just recycling the un avoidable remainder. I’m not happy with 50% but I do have hope that somehow my lack of consumption with certain brands and a group of like-minded consumers will force businesses to be aware of how their actions affect us and to make a change for the good.

Dave Rastovitch Photo: Hilton Dawe
Dave Rastovich Photo: Hilton Dawe

My little company has made the effort of get rid of almost all single use plastic. No more plastic tag connectors, we use a biodegradable string instead. No more plastic garment bags, we use a new nontoxic material made from carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. We also made it a re-usable bag. It’s biodegradable and will break down in a marine environment. We even stopped behind the scenes plastic by changing how our emblems are sent to our factories. Originally they were individually bagged. Thousands and thousands of small plastic bags that served no purpose. We asked them to use pieces of cardboard to protect them. An easy fix and even more efficient to handle in production.

Humpbacks on Australia’s east coast Photo: Hilton Dawe
Humpbacks on Australia’s east coast Photo: Hilton Dawe

We then started to see some companies making fabric from recycled plastic bottles and soon realized the benefits of actually making whole hats from something that is used once and thrown away. Using 100% recycled plastic means we use 80% less energy and 90% less water than what would be needed to make virgin polyester which is made from Oil. We purchase the thread from a USA based company who manufactures the material in China and we make the actual hats in Sri Lanka. The reason we ship the material to our factory in Sri Lanka is because they make the best quality hats of this kind. I realize the more we ship the larger the footprint but quality means they last longer and we don’t have to re make hats and that ends up a worse problem. We still require a third party company to confirm we are truly purchasing 100% recycled PET and the fabric is formaldehyde free and no AZO dyes. These new hats turned out beautiful with a soft feel, waterproof and wont shrink or fade. I get really excited at the idea of turning trash into a beautiful new functional hat but in the spirit of my song “Stuff” please don’t buy one unless you need a new hat. Keep using your old one even if it’s a little beat up, hats look great with a bit of character anyway. Truly – Will Conner

Ancient Proven Skin Care – A Hat!

Stay young under the sun . . .

The absolute 100% proven way to keep your youthful skin is to protect your face from the sun and there is no better way than a UPF rated Conner hat of course!

Growing up in Australia I was made aware of the harmful effects of a sun burn at a young age. We had a campaign down there called Slip Slop Slap, which means slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat! They had ads on TV and made it into a cartoon so everyone knew all about it. Australia having one of the highest rates of skin cancer per capita did a great job of informing people. These days I haven’t seen those ads or anything like it but we live in a world of constant media so perhaps it’s just lost in the mix. Skin Cancer is by far the most common form of cancer and can be avoided by being aware and keeping yourself protected. Some people feel self-conscious wearing a hat at the beach or outdoors but once you find that perfect hat it just becomes a part of you and in my opinion makes you a more intriguing person. In fact, I have had a few friends tell me that they met their significant other because they were wearing one of our hats. Hats are great conversation starters.

Here are a few things we made sure of at Conner hats regarding sun protection.

  1. We had all of our materials tested by The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)
  2. Even if one of our hats is made from 50+ UPF material we don’t rate it if it has mesh (unlike some other companies)
  3. We also won’t rate a hat if we feel the brim is too small for adequate protection even if it is made from 50+ UPF material

Here are some of our 50+ rated hats from a recent shoot (May 2016) we did in Byron Bay, Australia. We chose a hinterland location and also Wategos beach. Enjoy these shots and stay safe and have fun in the sun!

– Will Conner

Photography –  Carly Brown
H & M –  Alexis Mahoney
Stylist –  Alice Roberts
Models – Briggette Copper, Skye Jamieson, Montana Lower, Dane Burke

Bird And Feather Wool Hat

Jensen Straw Mens Hat

Avette Sewnbraid Hat

Southern Shade Toyo Straw Hat

Daniel Sewnbraid Fedora

liesel arden hat story conner hats

These things just keep finding you: Hatstory with artist Liesel Arden


Weather:  Cerulean Sky, no clouds

Soundtrack:  Rebel, Rebel by David Bowie

Unexpected: Headless Barbie Dolls


An artist may be a dreamer, but a dreamer isn’t necessarily an artist. The difference is action.

Artist/dreamer Liesel Arden recently completed a project she dubbed Signify Thirty, wherein she painted 30 portraits of inspiring  folks in  30 days, all to raise awareness and funds for people living with Motor Neuron Disease.  The portraits were auctioned off in September 2015 with all proceeds to benefit Motor Neurone Disease NSW.

We caught up with Liesel to learn more about her inspiring fusion of artistic activism.

All photos by  Ming Nomchong



How long has painting been part of your life? 

When I was a little girl I spent most of my time in my God Mother’s art studio drawing and painting. She was a huge influence in my creative development as a child. Art was a world of imagination and colour I loved to explore. I won my first art prize in Year 1 and I knew from a very young age that I wanted to do something creative.


I have since studied a Bachelor of Creative Industries at University and most of my work outside of my own art is within that industry. I only started to take my work seriously and work towards the idea of becoming a full-time professional artist in the last two years. I’ve had many periods of my life doing other things and embarking on other careers, but in the end, I always come back to art making. Sometimes these things just keep finding you.



What makes an artist? 


To me an artist is a philosopher in their field. It has little to do with a paintbrush. It is all about intent. Intent to share. Intent to change. Intent to challenge. Artists have curious nature. They are all searching to understand whatever it is they are thinking about on a different level. They are not afraid to go to places in their minds that challenge them. The real challenge is channeling these findings and creating something that can touch people or alter their perceptions. It’s a way of thinking and a way of living and it can be a very powerful thing.




What was the impetus for Signify Thirty? 


Signify Thirty was born out of a wish to contribute in a positive way to people living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), in memory and as tribute to an amazing friend Stacy Neild who passed away in 2013 from the disease. She was an incredible human, who touched and inspired so many and she was never ever afraid of a challenge. I thought I would take a leaf out of her book and take on a challenge of my own and in doing so, I hoped to be able to share her positive legacy whilst also raising some money and awareness towards helping others with Motor Neurone Disease.


I knew 30 portraits in 30 days would be tough. I think I was a little naive to just how challenging it would be but I’m grateful for that now :).


CH-Leisel-9 CH-Leisel-11


Why portraits? Why people in your community? 


To paint a portrait is a study of a person. Who they are. What they care about. What has shaped them. The more you understand someone the better you can capture their essence and tell their story. I learnt so much from Stacy and if we take the time we can learn something astounding from anyone. We all have story and we all have a lesson to share; be it great or small.




I wanted to capture 30 people’s stories, their challenges and what they had learnt within their lives or careers. I chose to study people who I felt were inspiring to me within my local community. I admire people who shape communities. Luckily for me we have some incredibly accomplished and inspiring people in Byron Bay and surrounds. It might be what they do for work or it might be what they represent but all of them are dedicated to something they love. They’ve all made mistakes and had to overcome obstacles and they were all willing to share and be a part of something they felt was important.




When developing the outlines of this project it became apparent that there was an opportunity to create something more than paintings out of these stories. Luckily, my incredible and talented cousin videographer/photographer Nolan Verheij-Full decided he would jump on board and bring these stories to life by filming all the interviews with each of the subjects. This priceless donation of a million hours of Nolan’s time meant that these stories surrounding the paintings could also be shared and hopefully inspire other people just as each of the subjects inspired us.




What’s next?


The 30 portraits are finished. What a journey. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same. Such an intense experience has taught me more than I ever would have thought both as a painter and as a person. It’s incredible what you can achieve when you challenge yourself. It’s also incredible how emotional such a process can be. And it’s not over yet. Nolan and I are currently finalising the interview videos and working towards the Auction/Exhibition of the final works and fundraising event. The Signify Thirty Exhibition and Fundraiser will be held in Byron Bay in early September 2015. More information on the event and opportunities to donate will be available through the website www.lieselarden.com.au/signifythirty or through Signify Thirty ‘s Facebook or Instagram @signifythirty


After that? I think I might try some landscapes ;)












will conner portrait conner hats hatstory

Not so ordinary hat man

will conner portrait conner hats hatstory

Our friends over at Handsome Citizens recently interviewed our own mad hatter, Will Conner, about re-launching his brand with the family name, bringing out your inner Frank Sinatra, and the quest to make Conner Hats as environmentally light-footed as possible.

Thanks to the fine folks at Handsome Citizens, who revel in a simple life well lived. Check them out for your daily dose of summer.


C O N N E R  H A T S
have made their way onto the heads and galleries of some very talented surfing / creative individuals on Instagram. On a recent girl’s Eco-surf adventure to Tonga,  Chrystal Fitzgerald,  Lauren L. Hill and  Ming Nomchong had a very sweet selection of Conner Hats packed for their journey.


connerhats.tonga.mingnomchongphoto2We are chatting to Will Conner,  whose father Bill started crafting leather hats in the late 60’s in Florida USA.
He then immigrated to Australia,  and set up an iconic Australian company named BC hats. These are still made today in the Conner’s hometown of Byron Bay.

Bill is known as one of the colourful characters of hat making. The search for a secluded,  hippy and musical lifestyle bought him to Byron Bay in the 70’s.
To this day Bill surfs every morning at sunrise,  plays a mean rhythm guitar in two bands and snowboards whenever he gets the chance!

Son Will has had his share of an extraordinary life,  having already sailed a two-person kayak,  one of 6 kayaks with pal Dave Rastovich,  in the TransparentSea adventure,  raising awareness for coastal environmental issues.
This adventure saw them getting lost from their crew, saving a seal and sighting Blue Whales. He tells the story:
“We launched from Malibu at about midnight expecting a 2 hour sail under the stars. 11 hours later we ended up at a beach where Chris Del Moro’s mum lives.. I can’t remember the name.. Let’s just call it.. ‘Holy Blue Whale, am I happy to be back on land!’ Beach…” (Palos Verdes LA)

And then there is his musical talent that has seen him perform with Jack Johnson. Sounds like a helluva father/son duo!

HC:  It’s great to see you continuing the family tradition of hat crafting. We have read that you were not prepared in the early incarnation of your own hat brand to use the Conner name. Some 14 years later the time has come to proudly introduce Conner Hats to the World,  and build the brand for future generations. 

Congratulations! this must be a big moment for you and your family,  can you tell us how you’re feeling about it?  

Well when you put your name on something you can’t hide… when you run your own business it rarely leaves your consciousness,  and when you put your name on the product it takes everything to a whole new level. Basically every customer better be over the moon or I have to come to their house and mow the yard and do their dishes!

HC:  Haha,  we like your style!..You seem passionate about creating a sustainable business,  causing minimal environmental harm and using organic materials…tell us more.

Yes this is a big subject of which I have been a student my whole life and honestly have been failing at since day one. I really didn’t get serious until my wife told me that we were going to have a baby girl.
Every single product we humans make creates some kind of environmental harm so I have had to take a really hard look at what we are doing in our business. I’m not talking about just making a few styles from organic cotton and acting like we are the jolly GREEN giant of hats…
We have had to dig deep and make uncomfortable decisions based on long term goals and not short term profit. I grew up a strange mix of hippy surfer and entrepreneur so that means once you have enough for food and shelter and simple fun,  the rest really isn’t important.
That way of being makes the decisions I have made easier. For a long time now I didn’t realize why I was so bored with business and now since our daughter I realize I have a lot of work to do to make her proud.




Here is a list of the changes we have made so far and some we are working on at our USA warehouse. We hope to be launching the Conner brand in Australia sometime next year:

[1] All paper products including office paper,  catalogs and hang tags are 100% recycled and FSC and we recycle and reuse everything we can.

[2] Removed all single use plastic hang tag connectors (these should be illegal in my opinion). We use a biodegradable string instead.

[3] Switched most of our sweatbands to organic cotton with nontoxic dye

[4] Our labels are now made from recycled PET (plastic bottles) and we use nontoxic glue to seal them in (it actually costs more for nontoxic glue!)

[5] We use a lot of other great materials like Raffia and Hemp.

[6] Next year we should have 90-100% of our power from solar on our new warehouse.

[7] Instead of plastic garment bags we will be filtering in bags made from Tapioca that are 100% biodegradable.

[8] The hat industry is as dirty as any,  and we are in the process of eliminating all toxic chemicals from wool and straw production. This isn’t easy,  but we’re moving forward and will be reporting our progress.
This is just the beginning,  lots more in the works,  it never ends!


HC:  That’s very impressive,  if only more companies were this eco-friendly.. What was your childhood like growing up in Byron Bay? 

I’m so lucky to have grown up in Byron around lots of music and eclectic characters. We lived in the Arts factory before it was a venue and a caravan out the back,  then we built a little house behind the hill there.. I listened to so many amazing bands as I was going to sleep. Also lots of bonfires on the beach and all of my family play music and surf,  so it was a fun magical time.

HC:  It sounds like you’ve lived in Florida for some time. Tell us about life in St Augustine which is on the Florida Coast,  do you surf there?  How does it compare to Byron Bay?

St Augustine is a unique part of Florida,  it’s North Florida, so we have big oak trees and Spanish moss,  its tropical but gets cold in the winter. It’s also the oldest city in America..a beautiful little beach town that looks very different to Byron but has a way of always bringing you back much like Byron does.
I like having two places to call home but Byron is definitely my first love. For years it was just my family and I migrating back and forth,  now Lauren and Dave (Rastovich) are on the same flight path so it’s fun to meet up over here and eat spicy boiled peanuts and talk in a funny southern accent.
We do get the odd fun surf especially in hurricane season and we are close to the Caribbean and Central America if those long flat spells become unbearable.

HC:  We took a sticky beak at www.willconner.com
With an enviable list of achievements and experiences,  what are the moments that have brought you the most joy and peace,  in this fast paced World that we live in?  

One great thing about having a one year old baby is I have a constant reminder of what is really important and that is just being happy in the moment. I have always chased that adrenalin high of surfing and music and trying to achieve what people call success. All of those things create good memories but don’t bring me the deep lasting fulfillment that my smiling beautiful baby does just by being…

HC:  How does a day in the life of Will Conner look?

Now days everything revolves around naps,  eating and bike rides to the beach… it’s amazing how much work you can get done in a small amount of personal time you get.. It makes me wonder about all those hours I wasted in the past on staring at a computer. I’m really lucky to have a wife who understands and encourages me to go surfing as much as possible.. Although she has learnt to read the reports and has a bunch of apps on her phone so if it’s no good she gives me chores. Fair enough.

HC:  Do you have any words of wisdom that you use for motivation,  when the work/life balance gets out of whack? 

I’m very self-motivated so normally I have to try to slow down… my inner Byron hippy tells me to breathe and clear my mind.
It doesn’t always work but I try to take a moment every day for that.

HC:  Name your biggest musical influences? Which one of these have you drawn the most from,  whilst creating your own music?

I love songwriters. I’m a Bob Marley fan,  I love his simple direct messages that everyone can relate to and his melodies are so good.. How could you not just love it! Unfortunately I sound nothing like Bob but what he did influences me a lot. I will keep writing and recording music as long as it continues to be fun. I’m in the middle of a new album and my baby daughter tells me if a song is good enough to record. She may be my new secret weapon.


HC:  How do you want the wearer of a Conner Hat to feel?

I want them to feel confident and free. You really can change your mood or bring out your inner Frank Sinatra. It’s amazing what the simple act of putting a hat on can do. It’s also great for a bad hair day and keeps your skin looking young.

Thanks so much for your time Will,  we look forward to the launching of Conner Hats,  and following your journey on facebook  and Instagram

It was my pleasure,  we are putting a lot of work into the new site.. We have some unique features we hope to be sharing very soon.

See the Eco-Surf adventure to Tonga with Chrystal Fitzgerald,  Lauren L. Hill and Ming Nomchong on Summersite here

Thank you to Ming Nomchong for providing
the stunning images taken of Conner Hats in Tonga.

You can follow more of this talented trio’s
adventures on Instagram ☟

Chrystal Dawn Fitzgerald @dawnwolfdreamer

Lauren L. Hill @theseakin

Ming Nomchong @thedrifterblog

conner hats tonga chasing the sun

Home is where your hat hangs …..

 conner hats tonga chasing the sun

A good hat is the perfect travel companion: it will dutifully serve as a disguise, a makeshift pillow, essential elemental protection, or as your little personal raffia thatched bungalow to snooze away in on a tropical beach somewhere far far away.

We sent our resident hat testers to Tonga to see how Conner Hats hold up in the sunny South Pacific.

Stay tuned for more from their hatventures.

*Don’t forget to share your #hatstory with us on social media

Photography by the illustrious Ming Nomchong 



conner hats tonga chasing the sun hammock hat

conner hats tonga chasing the sun desert island

conner hats tonga chasing the sun coconuts

heads hats conner

You know what they say about people with big heads?

heads hats conner


They have big hats!

According to National Geographic, our heads are getting bigger — and they don’t mean that as a figure of speech.

“New measurements of hundreds of skulls of white Americans born between 1825 and 1985 suggest that their typical noggin height has grown by about a third of an inch (eight millimeters).

It may not sound like much, but the growth translates to roughly a tennis ball’s worth of new brain room.

“I can’t guess the implications of this jump in cranial size, but other research shows a bigger cranium doesn’t necessarily mean more intellect,” said University of Tennessee biological anthropologist Richard Jantz, who presented the findings with colleagues at an American Association for Physical Anthropology meeting in April.

Ups and Downs of Evolution

Beginning with the dawn of the first Homo species, human skulls evolved to be increasingly bigger until about 30,000 years ago, when head size plateaued.

And about 5,000 or 6,000 years ago, when agriculture took off in earnest, skulls began shrinking. The cause of the shrinkage is a mystery, but scientists have tentatively fingered more efficient brain wiring and easier access to food and safety—the idea being that people no longer had to be especially smart to survive (aka the Idiocracytheory).

About ten years ago Jantz and colleagues were measuring skeletons and saw signs that the shrinking trend may be reversing. Since then, they’ve amassed data on 1,500 skulls spanning 160 years.

The specimens came from three collections to which only adult skeletons could be donated. And since mostly adult Caucasian Americans regularly donated to the collections, the researchers’ conclusions so far are known to apply to that group alone.

Americans Experimenting on Themselves?

Jantz cautioned that American life has changed in too many ways to pinpoint a single cause for the skull growth.

“I am absolutely certain, however, that it’s due to the unparalleled environment that we now live in,” he said.

“Americans drive cars, vaccinate their children—and an excess of food is now a bigger problem than undernutrition, among many other things. It’s almost as if we’re conducting an experiment on ourselves to see how we’ll respond to a totally new environment.”

University of Texas demographer Corey Sparks said the new conclusions seem to be valid but was equally cautious not to suggest an exact cause.”


Need help figuring out your hat size?

Check out our DIY sizing guide

Bill Conner Conner Hats

Welcome to the new Conner Hats blog


Bill Conner Conner Hats

The head that started it all. Will’s dad, Bill Conner, rockin’ a handmade BC Hat.


After a successful 14 year stint perfecting Cov-ver Hats, our founder Will Conner finally feels confident using his family name, linking his creations to a lineage of mad hatters.

About the name change, Will said:

“My father, Bill Conner started making leather hats in the late-sixties in St Augustine, Florida. He then decided to immigrate to Australia and created an iconic Australian hat company called BC Hats. All of his hats are still hand made in our hometown, Byron Bay.

I was 18 in 1988 and with the money I had saved from working in his hat factory and other odd jobs, I decided to move from Byron Bay to St. Augustine where my dad learned leather craft over twenty years prior. After a few months in college I decided my best chance to learn business was to buy a few cartons of BC Hats and start selling them in local shops around Florida. Fast forward to 1999, I was deciding what to call my own hat brand and add these to my BC Hat distribution. I considered our family name Conner, but I wasn’t sure if I could create as good a quality hat as my dad. At the time I didn’t want the pressure of living up to the family name. I decided on Cov-ver Hats, which turned out very well, but now I’m confident about putting the family name on our family business. ”

Learn more about the history of Conner Hats in the About Us section of our site.