The Sons of the Desert Fez Prototype

Of all the numerous requests and suggestions we have had for new designs the single most popular one -by a long shot- is for a Sons of the Desert fez. In fact the first request for one may even predate our website and since then we have gotten a multitude of inquiries over the years. After many delays we are quite excited to finally have something to show!
read more about this special fez and my perplexing creative process after the break
The Sons of the Desert was a Hal Roach feature from 1933 starring the great film duo Laurel and Hardy. In this movie best friends and neighbors Stan and Ollie belong to a fraternal organization called the Sons of the Desert, an order that is having an upcoming convention in Chicago that the boys desperately want to attend despite their wives misgivings.
The Sons of the Desert is also the name of the international organization devoted to the appreciation of  Laurel and Hardy's legacy. This organization was founded in the 1960's and endorsed by Stan Laurel himself. Needless to say, this is where many of the requests we were receiving came from but we didn't feel comfortable making unauthorized fezzes for such an austere fraternal order and we replied that we would need approval before we could work on such a fez.
Well after the first dozen or so requests, Fez-o-Joe took it upon himself to do some due diligence and find out who we needed to talk to to get this done. We have had this project on our list for over a year and it kept getting bumped for one reason or another. We just have too much stuff going on in our lives at times.
So now the tricky part is deciding what the fez should look like. It isn't as simple as making the fez in the movie. We don't do reproductions, it just isn't that interesting as an artist and in this case we couldn't even if we were interested. The original fezzes used in the movie were simple felt blocks with hand applied braiding. No two were exactly alike. We don't work in felt and the requests we were receiving were for Fez-o-rama Fezzes. So the question became how do I create something that captures the spirit of the original but has a bit of polish mixed in.
The first pass on a Sons of the Desert prototype.
After testing out a design that closely mimicked one of the original fezzes I realized I would need to go in another direction, something that related to the artwork more than the actual fezzes used in the movie. After looking ate various posters and stills from the movies debut and subsequent re-releases I distilled the problem down to a few key thoughts.
  • The initial design should represent the 1933 setting of the film. Perhaps in the future I will work on a more modern/complex design as an alternative.
  • The embroidery will be done in a single color. Despite being a black and white feature, the fezzes were the traditional red with gold braiding for the logo. Many of the movie posters presented this as well.
  • The design should be in a loose relaxed style as though it were hand sketched. This is closer to how the props were made and it keeps in line with Laurel's suggestion the the organization should have “a half-assed dignity” about it.
One area I wanted to focus on updating was -first and foremost- the lettering. The original fezzes had a very loose style that in this day brings to mind Comic Sans... not exactly what I wanted to go for. I felt the lettering needed to be something a little more deco and I once again referred to the posters from the past to give me direction. I chose a more deco style from the era for the Sons of the Desert lettering.
The other area that I spent some time experimenting on was the center fill of the sun. In the original fezzes the braid was coiled to fill the area in as a solid color. However, on a few of the posters for the movie the sun was illustrated to have a more open spiral like what you see in this prototype photo. I like the additional texture this creates and it avoids the large dead space of flat color that a uniform fill would create. This embroidery design also goes beyond our typical 4"x4" format. Since the color pallet is so limited I felt we needed to make up for the simplicity with some scale. That and the fact that the lettering wouldn't effectively fit in our traditional format. This is one of the key reasons we shy away from text in our designs but in this case it couldn't be avoided.
When we review our designs the first thing we look at is how does the fez look, not just the embroidery. This isn't simply a graphic design problem, we look at the fez as a whole. On top of that we always consider what the fez is going to look like at a distance or how will it look in a photo. My background is fashion design as well as graphics so I consider the fezzes as part of an ensemble, not just an individual accessory. Am I making this whole process more complicated than it could be? ...most likely but hey, that is what we do. so keep in mind this is our first peek at the up coming Sons of the Desert fez and we still have a few tweaks to the design to consider, but if you are interested in getting on our mailing list, hop on over to and sign-up.
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