Bes-Ben's hats were
comparatively tame until 1941. Around this time, Mr. Green-Field's creativity
and sense of humor really began to surface in his designs. He began to
incorporate unusual items into his hats: firecrackers, skyscrapers, animals,
bugs, fruit, doll furniture, palm trees, cigarette packages and even
Green-Field also made pieces to commemorate holidays and events. For Hedda
Hopper's appearance at the film premiere of �The Razor's Edge�, he topped a
hat with razors. A Chicago socialite received a little hat covered with clocks
to wear at a charity entitled �Time for Giving�.
World War II designs included hats decorated with "victory gardens" and
"invasion" hats. In deference to wartime rationing, Mr. Green-Field's 1942
hats were constructed from ordinary kitchen utensils: a Dutch bonnet
made from a kitchen towel trimmed with napkin rings; a cookie cutter and a tea
strainer; a tricorn covered with plastic cutlery, grapefruit knives and ice
tongs; and even a hat made of a sponge with protruding iced tea spoons.
prices for Mr. Green-Field's creations, which originally ranged from $37.75 to
$1,000, tended to exclude women on a budget. However, every summer he would
clean out his inventory for the new season at a midnight sale, marking down
the hats to as little as $5. At 2 a.m., he would begin to toss the rest out
the front door to waiting bargain-hunters. While the demand for hats in
general dropped dramatically in the 1960s, Bes-Ben hats have remained hugely
popular and collectible.
hat tops a world auction record it's bound to turn heads for a good hard look.
That�s what Bes-Ben hats are renowned for achieving. One recent auction sale
was a Bes-Ben creation called Independence Day. This festive hat was adorned
with an unfurled American flag, red, white and blue firecrackers and stars. A
furious bidding war erupted between an Illinois collector and a New York
collector, and ended in a spontaneous burst of applause as a new world auction
record of $18,400 was set, with the hat becoming the prized possession of the
the parade of Bes-Ben creations at the William Doyle Galleries in New York
recently, was an entertaining Records hat. Dated to the 1950s, the red silk
hat was festooned with black miniature records, each bearing different labels,
including: Capital Records' �Young at Heart� by Frank Sinatra and �Rock Around
the Clock� by Bill Haley on the Decca label. This was also a hit and sold for
an astounding $4,312.
Green-Field�s success in the business world allowed him to lead a sumptuous
life filled with world travel and collecting. However, beyond that he felt
passionately about helping those less fortunate than himself. In 1987, not
long before his death. he endowed the Benjamin B. Green-Field foundation in
order to improve the quality of life for children and the elderly of Chicago,