JOHN Gill knows a thing or two about Akubras – he’s been inseparable from his since he was a young child.
Now well into his 70s, the renowned horse breeder from The Rock is still rarely sighted without his trademark hat around.
The iconic Akubra hat is set to undergo one of the biggest changes in its history, with its producers set to no longer use Australian rabbit pelts to make the distinctive broad-brimmed hats.
Mr Gill says he’s sad about the change, but acknowledges it’s a sign of the times.
“Anything that’s a change i’m going to have a regret, aren’t I – I don’t even like Facebook,” he said.
“Of course it’s sad when those sort of things happen. I can remember the days of the rabbit trappers – how they’d take them in and sell the skin.”
Akubra has been using overseas skins in some of its hats for the past few decades, but still sourced some of the pelts used locally.
However, the hats are set to be crafted exclusively from rabbit skins sourced from Russia.
Being unable to source enough rabbit pelts locally to satisfy demand is behind the decision, the company said this week.
“The rabbits aren’t around out here like they used to be, are they,” Mr Gill said.
But the decision not to use Australian pelts by Akubra from now on has others hopping mad.
Maverick Queensland MP Bob Katter said he was reconsidering whether to wear his trusty Akubra from now on.
Member for Riverina Michael McCormack, who owns two Akubras and is often seen out and about wearing one of them, said he had no plans to hang his up in protest.
“By putting a ban on wearing Akubras and telling people not to – what’s the alternative?” he said.
“I’d much sooner wear a hate made by Australian workers than one totally and wholly imported.”
However, Mr McCormack said he was disappointed Akubra had taken the decision to move away from using Australian pelts.
“Australian rabbits are much better than foreigners – they’re a little bit like us in one sense, they got taken over here when they didn’t want to, they liked what they saw and they bred like wildfire. The rabbit story is a lot like the Australian story,” he said.
“It’s such a shame Akubra has taken this decision, but by the same token we still want Akubra to be a really viable Australian brand … they’re like Vegemite, one of those great Australian icons.”
Despite the move to cut Australian fur out of the hats though, Akubra will still be able to use the Australian Made label on their products, with production remaining in Australia, along with most of the costs involved in making the hats.
Mr McCormack said this suggested the Australian Made label may need a rethink.
“We’re trying to get food labelling right – I suppose we’ll need to extend that to non-food items as well,” he said.