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A Bit About Cowboy Hats

We call them cowboy hats, ten gallon hats or Stetsons, and little boys and Hollywood heroes as well as ordinary ranchers in Texas have worn them for generations.  But where did the cowboy hat come from?  

Transient
According to Wikipedia:

The concept of a broad-brimmed hat with a high crown worn by a rider on horseback can be seen as far back as the Mongolian horsemen of the 13th century.[6] A tall crown provided insulation, the wide brim, shade. In hot, sunny climates, hats evolved to have wide brims, such as the sombrero of Mexico.

It is not clear when the cowboy hat began to be named as such. Westerners originally had no standard headwear. People moving West wore many styles of hat, including top hats, derbies, remains of Civil War headgear, sailor hats and everything else.

Cattlemen from the States, arriving in what is now Texas and the surrounding states,  in the mid nineteenth century, adopted the wide brimmed, high crowned hat favored by Mexican vaqueros with enthusiasm and made a few adaptations of their own.

The term ” cowboy” was not then in use. A man who owned his own spread was called a rancher and the men he hired were called ” hired hands” or just ” hands”.  The hats they wore were just hats in those days. It was Hollywood Westerns that popularized the words ” cowboy” and ” cowboy hat”

Credit for inventing and popularizing the hat goes to John B. Stetson, a Philadelphia hatter who made a lengthy tour of the West in order to recover from Tuberculosis.  While traveling through the hot and arid Western plains,  he made himself a hat modeled after the broad brimmed, high crowned hats worn by the locals to protect himself from wind sun and inclement weather.

Upon his return to Philadelphia, he used the hat as a prototype for his ” Boss of the Plains” hat which, because of its durability, comfort, and practicality, became a best seller in the West and made Stetson a fortune.  Today the name Stetson is synonymous with the cowboy hat and the Stetson Hat Company is still in business and a genuine Stetson is still a sought after Western status symbol — and not just for cattlemen either.

John Wayne

John Wayne