They are synonymous with the hard-working men and women of regional and outback Australia and have been worn by kings, princes and movie stars.
Now, after 147 years in the hands of the Keir family, the iconic Akubra brand has been acquired by two of Australia's richest business leaders, Andrew and Nicola Forrest.
Andrew (Twiggy) Forrest PhD, the founder and former chief executive officer of Fortescue Metals, is due to make a formal announcement at the company's Kempsey factory on Sunday, November 19.
The Forrests', who recently announced their separation, have bought Akubra through their private investment company, Tattarang.
In a written statement ahead of his visit, Dr Forrest said it was to continue the company's commitment to local manufacturing and "to ensure companies like Akubra remain Australian owned... both protecting and creating new jobs, particularly in our regions."
Akubra is a major employer in the Macleay Valley, with about 120 people attached to its purpose-built factory.
It has operated in Kempsey since 1972.
Akubra has been owned and operated continuously by five generations of the Keir family.
Nicola Forrest, who grew up on a farm between Mudgee and Dubbo, said she is committed to protecting their legacy.
"Growing up in regional NSW, my parents taught me lifelong lessons about hard work and resilience," she said.
"The image of my father's tireless energy and perseverance, measured by the sweat on his Akubra, remains etched in my memory."
Outgoing Chairman of the Akubra Board of Directors Stephen Keir IV, said the family chose to sell to Tattarang because they wanted custodians who would protect and invest in the company.
"We thought long and hard about selling the business after five generations of family ownership," he said. "And after we saw how the Forrests have invested in local manufacturing with R.M.Williams, we decided they were the right custodians for Akubra."
The company was established in Hobart between 1874-1876 by Benjamin Dunkerley.
The Englishman was as skilled an inventor as he was a hatter and he soon found a mechanical way to remove the hair tip from rabbit fur so the under-fur could be used in felt hat making.
In the early 1900's, he moved the business to Surry Hills in Sydney and in 1904 was joined by fellow hatmaker Stephen Keir I, who had also migrated from England.
Keir went on to marry Dunkerley's daughter, Ada, and in 1912, the trade name Akubra came into use.
It is believed to be an Aboriginal word for "head covering" or "head-dress".
Akubras are hand-made and designed to last, as many a farmer will attest.
The manufacturing process takes six weeks and 162 steps. Each hat is handled 200 times and passes through 60 pairs of hands.
Akubra hats have been worn by Olympians, our Armed Forces, King Charles and Prince William - among many.
And they have featured in many classic movies, including The Man from Snowy River, Crocodile Dundee and Australia.
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