H is for Hat – in the Western that means Cowboy Hat and there is nothing more iconic in the field of Westerns than the Stetson. John B Stetson invented the hat while traveling the west for his health. He dubbed it the Boss of the Plains (above). It had a simple flat wide brim, for shade, a high dome, to circulate cool air, and was made of watertight fur-felt, to hold water for the plainsman’s horse (later an even higher domed version would become known as the 10 gallon due to this water carrying ability). The hat was remolded by wearers into various forms. A version creased in the center and dimpled on the sides soon emerged. It was shaped to conform to the wearers grip as he tugged it off with thumb and two fingers . The hat’s brim is slightly rolled. This is known as the Carlsbad (right).
But this was not the only common head gear. Cavalry style slouch hats were also popular having developed out of the Civil War era Hardee Hat (left). This hat sported a turned down brim and a cord in the place occupied by a headband on the Stetson. As time passed these hats were formed with the familiar symmetrical four corner pinch called a Montana peak and was still worn by my Marine Corp DI when I was a boot at Paris Island (right).
But what hat do you suppose was the most common hat you’d see when riding the range among the cow pokes, miners, card sharps, and gunmen of the old west. It was the same hat you’d likely see men wear on any city street in New York or Paris. It was created in London by two brothers, William and Thomas. It was popular for good reason – it just wouldn’t blow off your head. If you are familiar with Bat Masterson you may know it, and more likely if you have seen the “Little Tramp” Charlie Chaplin. The brothers Bowler were the hats inventors. It was named for them, but came to be known in the US as the Derby – the most popular hat in America’s Old West.
Which Western character from fact or fiction wore the best hat? – tell us what you think.