Pawnee Bill and Zack Miller Ranch 101
I love to wear hats so it’s mighty disappointing to me that women just don’t wear hats like they used to. Somewhere in the 1960’s hats became extinct—or just about anyway.
But cowboy hats are still out there, in fact, maybe even stronger than ever. I guess the reason for their popularity is practicality. Baseball caps which have become so popular these days, are not enough for a real cowpoke’s needs. For one thing, baseball caps may keep the sun out of a cowboy’s eyes, but does little else to protect them from the elements. Personally, another advantage in a cowboy hat is that they are just plain sexy. C’mon, you know there is nothing quite as manly as a man in a Stetson
Just so we’re all clear on exactly what a cowboy hat is, here are some facts:
A cowboy hat is a high-crowned, wide-brimmed hat which grew from the 19th century Mexican culture and has been redefined over time and even by certain individuals because the shape of the hat’s crown and brim are often modified by the wearer depending on taste, fashion, and the weather.
Although cowboy hats may be worn on every continent around the world, it is recognized immediately as part of the American old west and its cowboy culture. From northern Mexico, through western United States, and up into western Canada, the cowboy hat is the iconic gear of a ranch worker, country-western singers, rodeo circuit participants, and movies depicting the west.
The first western cowboy hat was called “Boss of the Plains.” The front-creased “Carlsbad” followed soon after, until the high-crowned, wide-brimmed, soft felt western hats arrived on the scene and became the image we associate with the cowboy today.
A Stetson circa 1920's
The modern renditions of cowboy hats are made from fur-based (mostly beaver) felt or straw, and sometimes leather. They are sold with a high rounded crown and a wide, flat brim. A simple sweat band on the inside of the crown just before the brim stabilizes the fit of the head. After the initial hat is purchased it can be customized with creases in the crown and a rounded or winged brim according to the owner’s wishes. Often a decorative band fits around the crown on the outside of the hat according to the taste of the individual wearer. Ornamentation such as buckles, bows, and so on are traditionally attached to the left side for an historically practical purpose. Most people are right handed, in the absence of a broad brim, decorative feathers or bows on the right side would interfere with the use of weapons.
Most often the colors are in shades of beige, brown, black, and gray. In the 1940’s pastel colors were introduced and seen on hats worn by movie cowboys and rodeo riders. The most famous and popular design and structure for a cowboy hat was created by J.B. Stetson since it was first introduced back in 1865.
Stetson focused on expensive, high quality hats that were a real investment for working cowboys. The water resistance and durability of the original Stetson gained publicity in 1912 when the USS Maine was raised from the Havana harbor where it had sunk in 1898. They found a Stetson hat in the wreckage which had been exposed to seawater, ooze, mud, and plant growth for 14 years. Amazingly, when that hat was cleaned off it was undamaged. You couldn’t create a better sales pitch than that for a durable, tough cowboy hat.
Just a little side info here about the difference between a fedora and a cowboy hat because of the many variations in a cowboy hat the difference can be a little obscure. So, here are the guidelines to separate and clarify fedoras from cowboy hats:
Fedoras have smaller brims from cowboy hats. They also have a stylish front pinch or dip in the front. Most fedoras have a wide grosgrain hatband. Think about that Frank Sinatra look. There is a wide variety of options in fedoras even though not as many as a cowboy hat. The top of the crown may vary in shape from an open crown, center dent, oval or teardrop shape.
Man in a Fedora
A fedora also has something called a “snap brim” so the brim can be worn up on every side much like a bowler hat. The snap feature on the fedora allows the wearer to snap the front brim down into place like a cool hipster. When the hat is to be stored, the brim can be snapped back into place to maintain its structure.
Indiana Jones’s hat looks like a mixed breed between the two, but it is a fedora and NOT a cowboy hat. It has the wide hatband and the pinched down dip in the front.
There are many famous movie stars, singers, and even a president who wore cowboy hats.
Bill Picket, a Famous Rodeo "Bull Dogger"
Frankie Laine Western Singer
Tim McGraw Country Singer
Tom Mix Silent Film Cowboy (and Friend of Wyatt Earp)
William S. Hart Silent Film Cowboy
Ronald Reagon, Actor and President of the United States
Here is a little scene with Hank Wilding and his Stetson in my book, HOME FOR THE HEART:
Smoothing her hands over her lavender shirtwaist dress, Lucy took a deep breath. Hank is never going to be interested in a plain woman like me. She turned from the mirror just as she heard the knock on the front door downstairs.
Her mother called up the stairs. “Lucy, honey, Hank is here.”
A thrill rippled through Lucy’s core. Hank. Handsome, unattainable, Hank Wilding. A reminder flashed through her mind. Even if she was beautiful, it wouldn’t matter. Hank was a self-proclaimed bachelor. Guard your heart, Lucille Thoroughgood. It will only get broken.
The sight of Hank standing with his hat held politely in his hands at the bottom of the stairs caused her heart to leap into her throat and beat so fast she could barely breathe. Her hands shook from the surge of adrenaline. No man should be that beautiful. A lock of his bronzed hair had an enticing way of falling over his brow. She wanted so much to touch it and sweep it back just so she could feel its texture. Hank gazed up the stairs at her with his dark brown eyes and seemed to hold her in his spell. And if that wasn’t enough, he grinned at her in that charming, crooked way she found so endearing. It wasn’t often Hank smiled. He frowned most of the time. It was a good thing, too, because, if he did smile often, women all over town would be swooning at his feet.
Diverse stories filled with heart