Fairfax Avenue's tiny Ethiopian District gets a lot of press for its cafés and the very fact of its continuing survival just south of Mid-Wilshire's ever-expanding luxury housing, museums and eateries. Easy to miss in this tattered shopping district is one quirky store — part junk shop, part treasure hunt — that offers some of the best men's hat shopping in town. That's right, hats.
The Helping Hands Thrift Store sells a weird mix of air guns, menorahs, Judaic jewelry, cool furniture, albums and art, a mix that draws in film and TV prop buyers along with the typical shoppers looking for air guns and menorahs, etc. But it's the fantastic collection of more than 200 hats that makes it all worthwhile. If you have a big head, you may be in trouble, because the proprietor has an eye for older hats that were steamed and shaped 50 and 60 years ago, when, he insists, "heads were smaller." (Egos, certainly.)
This place is nothing like the gleaming but silly two-story Hall of Fame hat store several minutes north, in the 400 block of Fairfax Avenue, with its pricey fitted sports caps in "limited editions." If it's a new hat you want, head instead to Venice Boardwalk to the jam-packed, thousand-hatted Titanic, or zip up to Northridge for a nifty, outdoorsy hat from the tall wall of choices at Recreational Equipment Incorporated.
But if true style is a must, then check out the selection of headgear, including fedoras, skullcaps, cowboy hats, Homburgs (and for women, the veils, flapper hats and day-at-the-derby hats). They are in tiptop condition — and my guess is that at least one or two will lead you to the inevitable reach for the wallet and reward you with a jaunty new look.—N. Jenssen