Who Is D Bar J
Meet David Johnson —
Las Vegas’s Master Hatter
David Johnson has been a resident of Las Vegas since 1961.
David first became interested in restoring hats while competing in Western Dance competitions. He wanted to keep his hats looking their best, so he began restoring his hats in his mother’s garage in 1988. After learning how to restore his own hats, other dancers noticed his handiwork and asked him to restore their hats.
Through restoring hats, his interest in the whole hat making process grew. While researching the craft of hat making and speaking with other hatters around the country, David discovered that the entire equipment from a hat making company in New York was for sale. The shop belonged to Michael Santa Lucia who immigrated to the USA around the turn of the century. He began working at the “True Hatters” hat shop in New York City in 1903 and then bought the shop in 1909. Some of the equipment that they used in the shop dates back to the Civil War.
When Mr. Santa Lucia died in 1978, his family placed the entire contents of the hat shop into storage, where it stayed until David bought it in late 1988. It was sold to him with the request that all of the hat making equipment be kept together. And for the last 24 years David has kept his promise to the family. Over this time, David has painstakingly restored all of the historic hat making equipment to its original state.
From humble beginnings in his mother’s garage in 1988, D Bar J quickly grew and moved into a storefront location on Spring Mountain Road in Las Vegas in 1989. The business flourished and attracted local celebrities like Tony Curtis and famous NFR cowboys to his shop. Because of the unique and historical equipment that was being used, D Bar J was listed with the Clark County Museums as a historical site. David gave tours of his shop to busloads of people, proudly displaying his 1860’s equipment.
Unfortunately, in 2005 David’s health deteriorated, and he was forced to close down his store. His health became so bad that David tried to sell D Bar J and put his affairs in order. It was reported in one of the Western Chronicles that David had died. But, as quoted by Mark Twain, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”. David continued to make hats only when his health would allow.
Today, David and D Bar J are healthy and back to making hats in a brand new 6500 sq. ft. facility located near the airport, at 5960 Topaz St. Continuing a reputation of high quality custom hand made hats from right here in Las Vegas, David is one of the few custom Master Hatters left in the country if not the world. Every D Bar J hat is hand made by David and his hats are shipped all over the world.
Over the years, D Bar J has made hats for the Smithsonian, Charlie Daniels, Ben Johnson, Clint Black, and Tony Curtis to name a few. David was chosen by Roy Rogers to make the official Roy Rogers and Dale Evans signature hats for the Roy Rogers Museum. David’s D Bar J Roy Rogers hat was on the head of the Roy Rogers mannequin in his museum until it closed. The outfit, including David’s hat, eventually went to Christie’s Auction and sold for $10,250. D Bar J is also very proud that their hats were chosen, and proudly worn by the greeters at the SALT LAKE CITY WINTER OLYMPICS in 2002 as covered by the Las Vegas Review Journal.
All of David’s life experiences shaped his character over the past 54 years, and what an interesting character he can be. When you come by his hat shop to visit, you will get a history lesson in hat making and hatting equipment that is unsurpassed. Hope to see you soon.