The Cowboy Hat’s Significant Contribution to History and Fashion
The cowboy hat is one of the most recognizable fashion accessories in North America and around the world. It can be constructed from a variety of materials and comes in a multitude of colors, but the general structure of the cowboy hat always includes a high crown and wide brim.
The roots of the modern American cowboy and his hat can be traced to Spain. Like most of the cowboy’s attire, the style of his hat was borrowed from the Mexican “vaquero” and designed to protect him from the sun, rain and other elements he encountered as he worked, hunted and ranched from horseback. The cowboy hat still performs these important functions for its wearer today.
In 1865, while John B. Stetson was hunting and exploring in the American West, he encountered gold seekers and cowpunchers who wore coonskin caps, bowlers and military hats from another era. Stetson, who had been trained in the hat manufacturing business by his father, recognized the need for a more practical hat for these adventurers. The modern day cowboy hat was born.
Stetson named his first cowboy hat “Boss of the Plains.” It was made from waterproof felt in a natural color, with a four inch crown, four inch brim and a simple band.
Wild West shows and western movies depicting cowboys and gunslingers helped popularize the cowboy hat, and by the nineteenth century many American men owned one. The cowboy hat continues to be a wardrobe staple for country singers, bullriders farmers and ranchers.
Today, the cowboy hat is made of felt, straw or leather. Felt hats mad from the fur of animals like beavers, rabbits or chinchillas can be shaped and creased to meet the needs of the wearer. A sweat band inside the hat keeps it secure. In addition to a plain or fancy band, it is often adorned with buckles, bows or feathers.
The most popular shades for cowboy hats are still beige, brown or black, but pastel-colored hats can also make an important fashion statement. Men, women and children of all ages enjoy choosing and wearing cowboy hats for work, play and special occasions.