"The Art and Mystery of Felt Making" is the ancient description of the hat making trade and it is a phrase hatters love, for they have great pride in the traditions of their craft.
Elizabeth of England bestowed upon hatters the title of Gentlemen. She was on her way to Tilbury to review the men and ships off to fight the Spanish Armada when she observed a "goodly company" gathered near Holborn, wearing polished beaver hats. She asked who they might be and was told they were journeymen hatters from Blackfriars and Southwerke. She was quoted as saying "Then such journeymen must be gentlemen" and ever since a hatter has been "a gentleman" and has borne the title with pride. Saint Clement (who died in 220 AD) is credited with the accidental invention of felt in Europe. Tradition says St. Clement was doing penance by walking to a faraway shrine. His sandals became worn and his feet were painful, when passing through a field he found some wool which had been left by sheep shearers. He placed some of it in his sandals to make his walking easier. At his journey's end the friction, pressure and moisture had adhered the fine fibres of the wool and had produced the first form of what is today known as felt.
Over the years, as technical advances were made and experience gained, the principles of friction, pressure and moisture were applied to more finely textured materials, like rabbit fur, which are used internationally to make the very fine felt hats of today.