In the corner of Emerald City Comic Con, a glowing carnivalesque sign lights up a corner of one of the showroom floors in glorious block lettering. It’s the addition to a cosplay outfit that you never knew you needed. Even the Fezzmaster himself, Jason Rodgers, never thought he would be a con-hopping Fez aficionado.
“I was studying in costume and theatre, and ages ago I wanted to make my friends hats. But I couldn’t make them top hats. So I thought about a fez.” But he couldn’t make a classic fez, he realized: “They’d just destroy them.” So he started to think about ways to make them soft where they could be crushed and retain structure, and while working on a quilted jacket, he got to thinking about how the simple look of a fez could be married with a velvet-and-soft-structured cylinder. They were a hit. “We’d wear them out to dinner, or go bowling, and people would stop us. ‘Were we a band, and where are we playing tonight’ or ‘Where can we get one’.”
So Rodgers tried selling them alongside his own art work. His first art show was Tiki Oasis in Palm Springs, FL (2004 – no hats, but since both Rodgers and his friends were wearing them, the hats stole the show) and then 2005 (three dozen came with him, and they all sold out). He had put up a website at that point, shrugging it off as “oh, sure, we’ll just sell whatever we don’t sell at the art show there.” The rest was history. “I retired from teaching and I’m a full-time Fezmonger now.”
As for the company, he describes it as: “All original artwork, all the sewing ourselves (a team of four according to the website), so it’s all in-house. We do tall and low profile fezzes, and chapeau that’s more of a scotch Glenngarry for the military look. And it’s all random, geeky paraphernalia as it inspires me.”
Most designs stay around for a year and a half. He does fezzes for the Laurel and Hardy Fanclub, but mentioned that he’s also had six different Cthulhu designs in the past. Originally the embroidery used to be closer to 30 minutes – now some of the more complicated designs can take as much as 80 minutes with multiple colors. They’ve also run fez designs specifically to give back to causes like Habitat for Humanity and so on.
The hats really are very lush in person, a great take-home cosplay addition from ECCC. There are also enamel pins and shot glasses to be found, and other accessories. They’ve actually got quite a few other stops coming up on their tour for the summer, all of which can be checked out on their website (http://www.fez-o-rama.com).
Last but certainly not least, this hit me the hardest –
You can snag Rodgers’ original Inktober artwork (as visible on his Instagram @fezmonger) at the booth, too! Not prints, original adorably spooky pumpkinfolk and such in marker. These are con exclusive, so get ’em if you’re here!