The Akubra has played a part in Australian history for more than 130 years. From the Mallee’s dusty dunes to the wetlands of Kakadu, the quintessentially Australian hats crafted under the Akubra brand have helped shape the Australian national identity.
An enduring icon
Many of Akubra’s iconic styles have been associated with great Australian legends, including adventurous outback stockmen, Greg ‘The Great White Shark’ Norman, Crocodile Dundee, Olympians, politicians, professional woman surfers, and the men and women of the Australian Defence Force.
The Akubra is a hat that distinguishes an ‘Aussie’, no matter where in the world they are. It’s no surprise Oprah chose to wear an Akubra when she visited Uluru on her trip ‘Down Under’.
From the ground up
From small beginnings in Tasmania, Australia, the Akubra business has thrived under five generations of Keir family leadership. Current Managing Director, Stephen Keir IV, has worked for the company for over 20 years. Keir’s father had him cutting fur and making hats for 10 years before he took on a leadership role.
“I have done a lot of time on the factory floor and I still spend a lot of time in the factory now. I quite enjoy that side of it,” Keir says.
Feels like family
Keir currently works alongside his two sisters, Nikki McLeod and Stacey McIntyre; and many other Akubra employees have family members working within the business. Keir says it’s not uncommon for employees to stay with the company until they retire.
“We’ve had a lot of our fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and cousins and relatives working here. It’s got a different feel to it, being a family business.”
Committed to integrity
As well as having a proud family heritage, Akubra remains fiercely Australian owned and committed to the deluxe quality the brand is known for. The process of making the hats has never changed; each hat is still individually handled and — while other Australian companies have looked to cheap imports — the family has firmly resisted the push to move operations offshore.
Now with over 90 employees, Akubra operates from a factory in Kempsey, on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Australia. It uses some of the same machines to manufacture the hats as it did over a century ago, but has expanded its portfolio of products and its market.
Keir says, “I would like to think that in 10 years’ time we might be making double the amount of hats we are making now, and I think we will expand with our succession planning. My sisters have two children each and I have three kids. Maybe one of them might step in and want to have a go at the business.”