Perhaps America’s most recognized clothing icon is the cowboy hat. The wide-brimmed hat, designed to protect the wearer from the punishing heat of the sun and rain in the open air, seems to point to the wearer and the will of the nation to reach the unknown beyond the safe limits of civilization to accept new challenges.
The idea of a wide-brimmed hat worn by a man on horseback dates back to the 13th century and the Mongol horsemen of the Asian steppes. When the Spanish arrived in the New World and introduced the horse into North American culture, the sombrero developed, probably in central Mexico, as an alternative to the less adaptive hat in Europe.
In 1865, John B. Stetson designed the first American version that we now recognize as the cowboy hat. He was called the “Chief of the Plains” and had a tall crown to isolate the top of the wearer’s head and a wide brim to protect his face and neck from the sun. It was made from a high-quality fur felt, usually beaver, and was waterproof, lightweight, and durable. A leather sweatband protected the hat and the smooth leather strap served as the band.
Due to the waterproof qualities of the hat, later models, with even taller crowns, were called ten-gallon hats, although the hat could only hold about three-quarters. A painting of a cowboy offering his horse “… the last drop of his Stetson” became a trademark of the company. In reality, ten gallon is probably a corruption of the Spanish phrase “tan galán” which means “very gallant” or “really handsome.”
Cowboy hats were more than utilitarian, they were also in vogue, and just like fashion, popular styles changed over the years, with the size of the crown and brim growing and shrinking with changing tastes. Tim McCoy, a true cowboy and later star of the programmer Westerns, wore a hat with a nine-inch crown in the 1930s.
The cowboys also showed off their individuality with a variety of wing and cup shapes, such as the Montana Peak, Telescope, Tom Mix, and Rancher.
“Right now, with felts and even straws, people like raised sides, very high, almost upright,” said Hannah Bryson, sales associate for Dennard’s Western Wear in Sherman. “That was very popular in the 1950s and 1960s and it’s making a comeback.”
Bryson said the favorite colors are silver belly, and off-white and black, and a glance at the wall full of hats shows this to be true. The most popular brim width is four to four and a half inches. Some people want something smaller, but not too often.
The higher priced hats cost $ 300, are made from beaver felt, and are not uncommon. Stetson 100X The Presidente Felt costs $ 1,000 and the Diamond 1000x reaches the $ 5,000 mark, there are exceptions. 7X hats are generally considered top-of-the-line products.
Over time, all hats take on the personality of the wearer, the way he wears them, the way he grabs the brim when putting them on or taking them off, ultimately producing a distinctive look and attitude. And that’s the way of jeans.