By Ameera Steward
For the Birmingham Times
When luxury retailer Nordstrom began selling WEAR BRIMS—the first Black-owned luxury hat brand to be sold in its stores—on March 1, it felt like a “full-circle moment” for Tajh Crutch, one of the brand’s designers.
On that day in 2007, Crutch was a student at Enterprise High School in Enterprise, Alabama, when an EF-4 tornado struck the school, destroyed the building, and claimed the lives of eight students.
“A lot of my friends from high school reached out to me and were like, ‘It’s a blessing that you survived the tornado that hit the high school and then that same day years later you’re the first African American luxury [hat brand] to be released at Nordstrom,’” Crutch said. “I never looked at it like that. … It made me sit back and count my blessings.”
Crutch and his business partner, Archie Clay III, have gained nationwide recognition for their successful luxury hat company WEAR BRIMS, which has a broad and growing clientele that includes actor Lance Gross, model Eva Marcille, NBA player Chris Paul, and comedian Cedric the Entertainer, among others.
The company, based in Atlanta, Georgia, has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and O, The Oprah Magazine, in addition to being highlighted on Black Parade Route, a directory of Black-owned business on the website of megastar Beyoncé.
In addition to being available via the Nordstrom website, WEAR BRIMS hats are sold at three brick-and-mortar locations: Perimeter Mall in Atlanta; Garden State Plaza in Garden State, New Jersey; and New York Men’s Store in Manhattan, New York.
At Enterprise High School, Crutch was captain of the varsity basketball team and voted best dressed by his classmates. Looking back, he believes being captain of the hoops team prepared him for his role as co-CEO of WEAR BRIMS.
“I had to lead a team through a season and try to figure out things,” he said. “Now I own a company. So, now I have to lead my team and try to make sure we’re flourishing, the company is sustainable, and we become a household name.”
Crutch, who has six brothers and one sister, was born in Melbourne, Florida; his family lived in Queens, New York, during his elementary school years. His stepfather was in the military, so the family moved around a lot. During Crutch’s teen years, they lived in Enterprise, Alabama, and he went on to attend Troy University in Troy, Alabama.
Crutch, who is not married and has no children, first became interested in fashion when his dad gave him his pair of blue, red, and white Air Jordan 19s when Crutch was in the seventh grade.
“From that day, I kept up with my sneakers and made sure my clothes matched. … Before that, I didn’t care what kind of jeans I was wearing, I didn’t care about anything. When I got those Jordans, I took fashion more seriously,” said Crutch, who shared that he had somewhat of an epiphany approximately a month ago.
His first name, Tajh, means “crown” in Hindu, and a fedora is known as a crown: “I know my parents didn’t know what I would end up doing when they were naming me, … the Lord probably knew,” he said.
Asked which WEAR BRIMS fedora is his favorite, Crutch said he has two: the “Rotten Peach,” a rose quartz colored fedora with a mauve-and-light gold band and a velvet bow to match, and the “Royal Fox,” a bright-orange fedora with a light-blue corduroy bow and a burnt-orange bow behind it.
The “Rotten Peach” was a collaborative design with Crutch’s Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, brother Brandon Stevens. At first, the design wasn’t a favorite of WEAR BRIMS co-CEO Clay, also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, but after wearing it and getting compliments, he called Crutch and said, “We have to bring this out”—and it sold out instantly.
Of the “Royal Fox,” Crutch said, “It’s a color you don’t really see often, … but when [people] see it, no matter [their skin color], they compliment that hat.”
“I love that hat,” he added. “It’s named the ‘Royal Fox,’ but I call it the ‘Crowd Stopper.’ … Wherever you go with that hat on, because it’s such a bright color, people are going to at least stop and notice it.”
All WEAR BRIMS items are unisex. Fedoras are all the same style with different colors and different bands, and sizes range from small (S) to extra-extra large (XXL); T-shirts and hoodies come in sizes S to XXL; and baseball caps are adjustable one-size-fits-all. To see the WEAR BRIMS collections, place an order, and learn more about the company, visit wearbrims.com or follow on Instagram: WearBrims, Facebook: WEAR BRIMS, and Twitter: wearbrims.