do-not-wear-hat-outfitting-the-westIt’s high time we got to talking about hats, that most basic element in a cowboy’s wardrobe, or a cowgirl’s for that matter.

Along with Coca-Cola bottles and the American Eagle, the high crowned, wide brimmed headwear of the American cowboy is one of the most recognized symbols in the  world and has been ever since the days of Buffalo Bill.

Loaded with reference, the cowboy hat adds dignity, sex appeal and clout to the average dude, not to mention height. It’s not only practical, having been designed originally by John B. Stetson in 1866 to protect a man from the elements, it also adds mystery and authority. In fact, the right hat can even indicate moral integrity, separating the good from the bad when you really need to know. Remember those old TV Westerns? You always knew who the bad guys were—the ones in the black hats! From Gene Autry and his famous side creased, snow-white Stetson to the Lone Ranger and his light tan, triangular creased Resistol with a curled brim, our heroes and their hats were synonymous.

Handmade in a time-honored tradition, a quality fur felt hat is a serious acquisition and usually a serious investment as well. The Cowboy Hat Book by Rich Rand and William Reynolds lists select American hat makers along with great hat lore. And whether your choices are straw, affordable wool felt or a luxurious 20X beaver (X is Stetson/Resistol’s grading system for the finest fur felt), know the cowboy hat for what it is: a piece of history, a touch of romance and one of the most flattering styles of headgear known to man. That is, as long as you haven’t used yours to water your horse.

Wouldn’t be caught dead in: that sideways number that went out with Gabby Hayes (see photo).

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