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I would like to introduce you to the greatest male hat model in the world. His given name is Semen, a Russian-Jewish name that means “Heard by God”. The name that his parents gave him after moving to America (but only when they boy was nine years old and the coincidence became known to the family) is Paul.

Paul knew from an early age that he wanted to be a hat model. Even as a toddler, he would put his diaper pail on his head and stare at himself in the mirror for hours.

The world of hat modeling was already a competitive field for women. But when Semen/Paul took to the studios of major catalogs and websites, he cracked the field wide open. Male hat modeling would never be the same.

I got the chance to interview Semen/Paul, and I asked him for the stories behind some of his most famous hat photographs.

"Although this was a particularly challenging hat, mainly due to heft, I just thought about the warmth and joy that it would bring to a pimp on a cold Newark night. I think I really nailed it."

"This hat reminded my of my grandfather. I tried to channel his spirit in the modeling. He killed many dissidents."

"Oh! Ha ha ha ha. I could never forget this one. This hat was very fresh. When we went to shoot the photo we realized that one of the fox's ears was still twitching! Heh heh. An intern had to whack the thing in the head with a bat, just to be sure. Whew! That was a very funny day."

"I had just finished the second season of The Wire on DVD, so the timing of this shoot could not have been more perfect. I really got into the character's head. This was a very intense and very personal photograph for me. It's quite raw. Visceral."

"Another from the same series as above. This was a very emotionally draining shoot. I had to access a part of me that I hadn't touched in a long time. I had to dig very deep."

"You know how sometimes, in magazine fashion layouts, certain accessories are listed as 'model's own'? Which is because the model was already wearing such a fabulous accessory that the stylist just HAD to use it in the photo shoot? That's what happened here."

"This was a photo shoot for charity. A special design for the Shriner's Club of Saskatchewan."

"I feel that this image speaks for itself."


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