Thursday, March 5, 2020

Men's Hats in the Old West

Ah, the cowboy, He's the iconic symbol of the American Wild West. Hi, Kit Morgan here, and today I want to talk a little about hats.
When we think of men's hats in the old west, we picture a man on a horse wearing a duster with a cowboy hat ... or did they? Did cowboys and other men really wear a wide-brimmed cowboy hat, or better yet, the ten-gallon hats like you see in Westerns on television? Well, to be honest, no. Back in the day, men often preferred to wear the dependable derby.

The derby (also known as a bowler) was worn by some of the most
famous figures of the old west. Take Butch Cassidy for example. Kid Curry, Will Carver, and the Sundance Kid. All of them sported a derby. Bat Masterson, another famous figure in history and a gunslinger and gambler to boot, also enjoyed wearing one. Even Billy the Kid liked them.

But what about Stetson hats? When did they come along? Well, not until about 1865 and they weren't very popular at first. In fact, the Stetson didn't start coming into its own until the latter part of the nineteenth century. Before that, men on the frontier wore a variety of hats. Not the famous Stetson we grew up with seeing cowboys and other men wear in movies and on television. And, of course, there were reasons for that.  One main one was, a derby wouldn't come off when it got windy!

Another interesting thing about men's hats in the old west, men often wore a hat associated with the sort of work they did. Though the derby was the most popular, men also word flat caps, hats made of fur (usually beaver) sombreros, hats leftover from the civil war called kepis. And, of course, simple wool caps. Some famous men such as Wild Bill Hickock and Wyatt Earp wore low-crowned hats because let's face it, they were less of a target than if they were to wear a big, ol' cowboy hat.

So the next time you see a cowboy in film, television, a rodeo or other western event, try picturing him wearing a derby and see if you don't smile and giggle just a little. We're just too used to seeing them in a Stetson.

Until next time,

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