Crafting Oppenheimer's Iconic Look

Written by Camilla Jessen

Mar.05 - 2024 1:24 PM CET

Photo: SCA Studio Can Aksoy /
Photo: SCA Studio Can Aksoy /
To capture the appearance of J. Robert Oppenheimer in the movie, his signature hat had to be just right.

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To nail the iconic look of J. Robert Oppenheimer for the big screen, his trademark hat was crucial.

Mark Mejia of Baron Hats stepped in to craft the perfect hat after two previous attempts by others fell short. When Cillian Murphy, playing Oppenheimer, tried on Mejia’s creation, director Christopher Nolan added his touch to give it "a little bit of attitude."

A Hatmaker's Journey to Hollywood

With 30 years of experience, Mejia has crafted hats for top-tier celebrities and musicians, working out of his downtown Los Angeles workshop above B. Black & Sons, a historic fabric supplier. The Baron Hats showroom is a treasury of Hollywood history, featuring hats from films like "Cry Macho" and "Public Enemies," and hats worn by stars like Bob Dylan and Beyonce.

Mejia, who began his career after leaving a job as a science technician, learned the art of hatmaking under the guidance of Eddie Baron, Hollywood's favored hatter since 1969. Mejia took over Baron Hats in 1995 and has since been a key player in creating memorable movie hats, working closely with costume designers to bring their visions to life.

From Concept to Screen

Creating a hat involves interpreting sketches from costume designers, then meticulously molding and shaping materials like beaver or rabbit felt to achieve the desired look.

For "Oppenheimer," costume designer Ellen Mirojnick sought a unique combination that resembled a blend of porkpie and cowboy hats, which Mejia successfully delivered, impressing both Mirojnick and Nolan.

The hat not only captured Oppenheimer's distinctive style but also symbolized his transformation into a figure of authority at Los Alamos. Murphy's consistent use of the hat in the film, as directed by Nolan, reflects Oppenheimer's own consistent real-life look, with most other characters in the film appearing without hats.

For Mejia, the satisfaction comes from seeing his handmade creations come to life on the big screen, celebrating the art of traditional hatmaking in the modern age of cinema.

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