The hat is possibly the most defining staple of the cowboy’s iconic image. The round, curved brim and pinched crown has made the cowboy hat the most recognized piece of Western wear, but it didn’t always have this look.
John B. Stetson, a famous hat manufacturer from Philadelphia created the “Boss of the Plains” hat in 1865. By today’s standards, the hat was rather ordinary in design, with a round flat brim and smooth, rounded crown. Stetson made the hat out of fine fur from beaver, rabbit and other small animals to withstand the elements. Thanks to its durability, the “Boss of the Plains” was ideal for the demands of the working Westerner and became incredibly popular.
Over time, the cowboy hat underwent changes in shape to better suit the needs of its owner and evolved into the form we are more familiar with today. The brim curved up on the sides to stay out of the way of a rope, and the crown became pinched to allow better control.
Today the cowboy hat has become as much a part of fashion as it is function. Adorned by cowboys, cowgirls, rodeo athletes, musicians and movie stars alike, the cowboy hat is a truly traditional item of the West.
For more information on the cowboy hat, visit the American Cowboy Gallery.