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Monday, September 12, 2022

The Hat Makes The Man

As the old cowboy saying goes, “It's the last thing you take off and the first thing that is noticed.”

Whether a top hat, derby, tam, fedora, beret, bowler – a hat does more than cover a man’s (or woman’s) head. They make a statement about the person.

If I say Bogart, can you see him, fedora pulled down low, collar turned up?

Or Charlie Chaplin in his bowler?

How about President Abraham Lincoln? 

Hats say a lot about the personality of the man - and some, like President Lincoln’s black stovepipe hat, will be forever linked with the man who wore it.

I believe the most recognizable type of hat, hands down, is the cowboy hat.

Did you see John Wayne in the movie Quiet Man and wonder where the heck his Stetson was? I did.

How about the hat Clint Eastwood wore in Pale Rider?

Or Indiana Jones in his battered Stetson fedora?

John Stetson was the creator of what we think of today as the cowboy hat. The son of a master hatter, John made his first cowboy hat as a demonstration to his buddies about making felt from fur. The wide-brimmed hat was so useful in keeping off the sun and rain, his companions wanted one of their own. And an empire was born.

Stetson started his company in 1865. By 1866, the “Hat of the West” or “Boss of the Plains” set the John B. Stetson Company on the path to becoming the most famous hat in the world. Originally sold in one grade (2 ounce felt) and one color (natural), that original Stetson hat sold for five dollars. The equivalent hat today would cost close to $1,000.

Made of a blend of rabbit, wild hare and beaver fur, today’s Stetson sets the mark for cowboy hats. You can get your Stetson in felt or straw, black, white, grey, tan; choose your style, for casual or dress, for outside wear or for going to church.

Stetson isn’t the only hat maker in the U.S. In Dallas in 1927, the Byer-Rolnick company began making the Resistol hats, so named because they were made to “resist all weather.” But, in spite of the lasting success of Resistol, Stetson is the name most associated with the west.

“Even after the wild aspect of the West was somewhat tamed, the cowboy hat never really lost its ability to lend that reckless and rugged aura to its wearer.”



  1. Thanks fir this really interesting article, Tracy! I never thought about who 'invented' the cowboy hat - now I know!

  2. Thanks for this, Tracy. Hats were so ubiquitous in the past, and they ground the characters in the place and era so firmly. Of course, the Stetson is iconic, but I never thought about its invention.

  3. I was unaware of the Resistol hat. Great post. Doris