BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A photographer with a passion for city fashion turned his style into a local Brownsville business.
Tom Ortega, owner of Motley Hat Co. in Brownsville, decided to start selling hats in 2018 after receiving an abundance of requests from people asking where he bought his own hats. Prior to the hat shop, Ortega specialized solely in photography from a business he ran out of his home.
In 2018, Ortega opened a shop out of the Coca-Cola building in downtown Brownsville for his photography and moved to the current location in 2020. Motley Hat Co. and Tom Ortega Photography & Design can now be found at 800 N. Expy 77/83. Ste 33.
The name Motley Hat Co. is a play on words that symbolizes Tom’s name spelled backward and his wife’s nickname Ely spelled L-E-Y. The couple also comes from a Christian background and chose the sheep as its symbol.
Ortega said his hats are made of 100% felt and range in price from $125 to $165 depending on the customization. Buyers can customize their hats with feathers, bands and other accessories.
The local business offers reshaping, cleanings, and customizations for hats. He also educates customers on how to properly care for and store their investment.
Motley Hat Co. sells designs such as the traditional flat hat, the Panama straw hat (handmade in Ecuador) and the teardrop fedora.
Ortega walked ValleyCentral through the hat-shaping process which consisted of a jiffy steamer that made the felt hat malleable and moldable. Ortega shapes his hats by hand at the shop.
The hat shop owner said part of the reason why he wanted to open a shop in Brownsville was that no one in the city was rocking his hat design, which he describes as not western or charro.
“Our style is a little more in between,” Ortega said. “I call it a city vibe.”
He said the hats can be worn with sneakers, stilettos, suits, dresses, etc. for a more “rock-ish vibe.”