LU: I showed a Jamaican friend your father’s hats, and he asked, “Are these guys Trini?” He knew. So there’s a style of leather hatmaking in Trinidad that’s distinct from other places?
JJ: I’m not saying other people don’t take pride in what they are doing, but Trinidadian designers are very neat with their work. Hat Man from Trinidad, who lives in New York City, or Vice Versa, when they are presenting a piece it’s everything to them. That’s how we grew up: You always gotta give it your best. The versatility, too. Trinidadians are versatile people. We come from a country with a lot of different creeds and races, as you would say, but we’ve all learned how to get along. Being able to adapt and just tune into one. That’s what Trinidadians do, so that’s how the work comes out. I like the versatility. It shows what you’re capable of doing and [that] you’re actually being creative.
LU: What are some of the hallmarks of a Trini leather hat design?
JJ: You know when a Trini’s stitched something, because the stitching is just super neat. I’d have to bring two for you so you can compare and tell which one is Trini. The craft is something perfected over a time period. That’s why people like my dad have the respect that they have. They’ve been around for a long time. They overstand the craft. I have a lot of respect for Trinidadian hat designers. When you’re making hats, you’ll understand how deep this goes.