It was the family squabble that destroyed an entire industry. Back in the 1950s, two British brothers inherited a factory in Lyon—well, one of them did. Nicholas and Bobby Smith’s family made silks, a fabric for which the French town was renowned; theirs were the sole remaining looms that could weave the high-grade silk needed to make a top hat.
Nicholas had been disinherited in favor of his brother, and, piqued at the slight, took the ultimate revenge: he trashed every loom, rendering them useless. His senseless act of vandalism did more than wreck the Smiths’ finances, though. A few bales trickled out for the next few years—already woven, and in storage—but soon hatmakers could no longer source the key material for an Ascot-ready topper, rendering the rarefied product effectively extinct.