The Legacy of Stormy Kromer
The history of the Stormy Kromer cap has deep roots. From hunters to hikers, anglers to railroad engineers, this hat has been worn by many a hard-working Midwesterner.
If you’ve lived around the Great Lakes for long enough, you’ve definitely seen at least one of these handsome hats out in the wild. But how much do you know about its creation, or how it ended up as a symbol of Yooper pride? Read on as we dive headfirst into the history of the Stormy Kromer cap.
Robert Jameson, Co-Owner of Peninsulas, sporting Stormy Kromer attire.
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The story of the Stormy Kromer cap starts with its namesake, George “Stormy” Kromer. Born and raised in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, George had a deep love of baseball and would play for the Kaukauna semi-professional team. It’s said that this is where he earned the title “Stormy”, for his temper.
While George loved baseball, he would soon find another love: Ida. Ida and George planned to marry, but George was warned by Ida’s father to find a real job first. So, George became a railroad engineer for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway.
Being a railway engineer is not easy work, as George soon found. He lost many caps to the wind while out on the rails, and one day, he decided that something had to be done. George brought his wool baseball hat to Ida and asked her to make some modifications. Ida sewed a special headband on to keep his hat snug and his ears warm, and thus, the Stormy Kromer was born.
On that fateful day in 1903, George went to work with his new cap, and it wasn’t long until the other engineers were offering to pay for a similar one! And so, The Kromer Cap Company hummed right along, growing and moving from Kaukauna, WI, to a larger facility in Milwaukee in 1919.
Fun Fact: While we may know the iconic hat today as simply the “Stormy Kromer Cap,” originally, this hat style was coined the “Kromer Blizzard Cap.”
By the mid-1900s, as George and Ida grew older, they knew they would soon pass on the Kromer Cap Company. Eventually, the Kromers sold the business to Richard Grossman in 1965.
Richard kept the business running for a few more decades, but sales for the Kromer Blizzard Cap became so sparse that he made the difficult decision to discontinue the hat style. This decision would have ended decades of history for an iconic midwestern hat. And it may have been finalized if not for Bob Jacquart.
Bob Jacquart is one of the many midwesterners who grew up seeing Stormy Kromer caps on the heads of friends and family.
“I’ve got photos of my grandfather wearing one, I’ve got a picture of my great uncles wearing hats, I’ve got family traditions going way back.” -Bob Jacquart
When Bob heard that the Kromer Cap Company was about to stop making the Blizzard Cap, he knew what had to be done. Bob called up Richard Grossman, offering to buy the rights to the design. He wasn’t entirely sure that it would work. But lo and behold, in 2001, Jacquart Fabric Products purchased Stormy Kromer, and a new chapter in Stormy’s history began.
Soon after buying the rights to Stormy Kromer, Bob moved the company to the Jacquart family home of Ironwood, Michigan. This move, and Jacquart’s commitment to hiring Ironwood locals, cemented the Stormy Kromer cap as a true symbol of Yooper pride.
The legacy of the Stormy Kromer cap left its mark on Bob, but he wasn’t the only one. Bob’s wife Denise and their two children, Gina and KJ, were already familiar to the world of sewing and embroidery machines through Jacquart Fabric Products. Stormy Kromer, as well, had been in their lives for a long time.
“When I was around 13 years old – way before you wore helmets when downhill skiing – all the kids here in Ironwood wore Stormy Kromer caps on the ski hill. And then we would collect pins from the different hills and pin them on the earband. It was kind of a badge of honor to see how many pins you could display.” -Gina Jacquart Thorsen
When Jacquart Fabric Products bought Stormy Kromer, Gina was living out of state. But the legacy of Stormy Kromer resonated with her. Eventually, Gina came back to Ironwood and became the President of Stormy Kromer. The Jacquarts continue to breathe new life into the Stormy Kromer business, using their ingenuity to create ideas for new product lines and versions of the hat.
“When Bob bought the company in 2001, he bought a single hat style, in two colors. But now we offer over 1200 SKUs of caps, outerwear, accessories, and pet products.” -Gina Jacquart Thorsen
Many of Stormy Kromer’s items are made by a dedicated group of midwesterners who design and produce the hats. Listening to the hum of sewing machines and watching sewers’ careful hands gracefully guide the fabric through a speedy line of stitches, it’s easy to sense the satisfaction these skilled folks have in good craftsmanship and an honest day of hard work. In times when Stormy Kromer partners with other companies, it’s always in pursuit of combining their strengths to create the best product possible.
There is a clear commitment to treating workers well, creating a quality product, and honoring Stormy Kromer’s long history. After all, they still use the original 1903 pattern developed by Ida and Stormy for their central Stormy cap. Sometimes you just can’t beat a classic.
If you’ve never worn or seen a Stormy Kromer cap before, you may not get what the hype is about. Allow us to show you.
Stormy Kromer caps have a perfect blend of style, quality, and function. The historic silhouette of this cap makes its style appropriate for everything from hunting on the weekends to an afternoon in town. You can be sure it will stand up to all sorts of wear too, with solid construction and a lifetime guarantee from the company.
While most hats are one size fits all, Stormy Kromer hats come in a range of sizes, to suit every head. The original design has a durable wool outer layer and a 100% cotton flannel lining to keep you warm. And of course, the original design includes the famous pull-down earband to keep your ears toasty all winter long.
You can see all the Stormy Kromer styles that Peninsulas offer here. I myself have a dove grey Ida Kromer, and I can personally attest to how warm, snug, and durable it is!
This famous cap has a long and storied history, and it doesn’t have plans to disappear any time soon. As the company president, Gina Jacquart Thorsen is working hard to bring Stormy Kromer into the future. The company has excelled in applying the scrupulous quality that Stormy Kromer is known for to new styles and designs.
“Besides the caps – of which I have a huge collection – my favorite piece is the Swallowtail Jacket. I’m so proud of our design and production teams for making this jacket – the details are thoughtful and well executed, the fit is fantastic, and just like our caps, it combines form and function. I have the red/black plaid version, and I regularly get stopped by people asking about it, or just to give me a compliment.” -Gina Jacquart Thorsen
In addition, Stormy Kromer continues to add more sustainable business practices to its production wherever it can. For example, they partner with eClean Advanced Fabricare, an environmentally conscious alternative to dry cleaning. They also reduce material waste through recycling and repurposing methods and use renewable energy in their facilities.
Stormy Kromer continues to grow, and you’ll likely see it in even bigger nationwide stores like Moosejaw or REI. But rest assured, every genuine Stormy Kromer hat is made right in the Great Lakes Region and carries on the heritage of all those hard-working midwesterners that came before.
Photos of Jacquart family and historical images provided by Stormy Kromer.