A fedora purchase turns bouncer into Oxford icon


Photo by Simon Levy

Brian Urell on Green Beer Day 2021, in one of many eccentric outfits for special holidays and popular drinking occasions, while checking IDs as a doorman at local bars.

By Simon Levy

Brian Urell cannot exactly remember when he started to wear his signature hat. He remembers going to pick out his first of the many headpieces that gave him the name he is now known for around Oxford.

Brian Urell is the Fedora Man. 

He picked it out at Walmart, 10 or so years ago, and has worn it ever since. Urell said it was never something he intended to do.

“I never really was a hat guy, but I liked this one and started wearing it, and then I got another one because the first one started to fade, and then I got another one and another,” Urell said. “My current inventory is maybe 25 of them.” 

For the past 10 years, students around Oxford have known Urell as the Fedora Man, but do not know much else about him besides that he is strict when checking IDs. The hat makes him the most recognizable bouncer in town. 

Born and raised in Oxford, Urell graduated from Talawanda High School in 1995. He has a couple of brothers but was raised predominantly with his brother Peter Urell. Peter always looked up to him as a role model in school, due to his desire to learn and his athleticism, especially when it came to wrestling.

“For me, watching Brian develop as a wrestler was a really cool thing,” Peter said. “He was a hell of a wrestler up until his injury his senior year of high school and it was incredible to watch.”

After high school, Urell stayed in Oxford to attend Miami University where his family has been his whole life. Miami was home for Urell, so that was where he was going to be.

Urell loves to learn and after taking courses over many years at the university. After changing paths many times along the way, he finished with a degree in history, with minors in political science and Middle Eastern Islamic studies.

After college, Urell had, and still has, many aspirations for a career that would help others, even though they may not have panned out yet.

“I mean, I looked at the Peace Corps for a while as an interest for me, doing a couple of years of that and then maybe going to grad school after that, but you know, I would like at some point to make that kind of contribution, as part of who I would be as a legacy,” said Urell.

He has not been able to pursue such a career because of more important financial and familial obligations in Oxford.

Back in 2009, Urell’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Urell knew that while there was a lot that he wanted to do with his life, his family was everything to him and if staying and working in Oxford was what was best for his family, then that was exactly what he was going to do.

Sadly, Urell’s mother died, and shortly after that, his father began to have health complications. So again, he decided to stay in Oxford.

“I’m in a position in my life where I can be here for him and I will stay here for him,” Urell said. “Until that situation changes I’m going to stay here.” 

Urell has always had a very big heart, said his brother Peter, and it shows when it comes to his family. Urell’s family has always been close and deeply tied to Miami, so staying and working here was a no-brainer. You can hear his voice break as he talks about why he stayed.

“My whole family has an affiliation with Miami University. My dad is a retired employee from Miami, he worked in administration for a long time,” Urell said. “My mom was affiliated with Miami, and both of them did their master’s degrees at Miami University.”

Now, at age 44, Urell lives with his girlfriend, Jessica and her children in Oxford. He does work to fix up and resell houses, off and on, with a friend in Cincinnati. He has always had a second job at one of the bars in Oxford for most of his working life. 

In Oxford alone, he has worked at Brick Street (when it was called First Run), Woody’s One Up Bar, O’Pub, Corner Bar, The Woods, Side Bar, Steinkeller, Mac & Joe’s, Circle bar and MIA.

Currently, he works at O’Pub, where he is a beloved coworker and highly spoken about by his boss, Paul Baumann.

“Brian’s friendly, hardworking — he listens well and he just brings good energy to the bar,” said Baumann.

Examples of that energy are his vibrant outfits for special occasions. For Miami’s famed Green Beer Day, he was dressed in green beads, a gold tie, sparkly shamrock glasses — and of course his fedora — which despite the rain, shone brightly with green sequins and a gold sequined band.

The fedora is always the centerpiece of his outfit. It is his claim to fame around Oxford and to the students at Miami University – so much so that it is not uncommon for people to ask to buy it right off his head.

He even recalls one time when working inside The Woods, a customer offered him $100 for it.

“I said, ‘alright, you show me a hundred bucks and I’ll sell you my hat’,” Urell said. “And so, he took out five $20 bills and held them in front of me. I asked if he was sure and he said ‘yes,’ so I sold him my hat. And he was running around the bar showing everyone he got my hat.”