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Made in Texas: How Stetson hats became a staple of the American cowboy

Classic Stetson cowboy hats. Left: Revenger 4X, Right: Boss Plains 6X
Classic Stetson cowboy hats. Left: Revenger 4X, Right: Boss Plains 6X (Stetson.com)

HOUSTONWelcome to Made in Texas, where we write about products made in the Lone Star State.

Today, we’re featuring the accessory that became a staple of American cowboys over 150 years ago, the Stetson cowboy hat.

The product

Stetson cowboy hats were originally created in Philadelphia in 1865 by John B. Stetson. But since 1970, the symbolic headpiece has been manufactured in Garland by HatCo, Inc at one of the largest hat factories in the country, according to Stetson University.

The story behind the first Stetson cowboy hat

Stetson noticed a need for cattlemen to protect themselves from the sun and rain, so he decided to design a wide-brimmed 10-gallon hat using the hat-making abilities he learned from his father, a well-known hat maker in New Jersey.

Stetson successfully sold the hat to a passing rider for $5 and decided he would turn his skill into a business. He borrowed $60 from his sister, rented a small workshop and hired two workers, according to Mental Floss — an American online magazine that shares interesting facts.

Stetson named his first commercially successful hat “Boss of the Plains”. The hat had a round flat brim, and a smooth, rounded crown and was made with beaver fur, rabbit and other small animals, according to the National Cowboy Museum.

The hat became popular thanks to its durability, which was ideal for the demands of the working cowboy, according to the National Cowboy Museum. By 1915, Stetson had become the world’s largest hat company.

Throughout the years, the brand has been worn by stars like William “Buffalo Bill” Cody and featured in Hollywood films like “Urban Cowboy” worn by John Travolta and in “Indiana Jones” worn by Harrison Ford, according to mentalfloss.com.

Today, the 155-year-old company sells dress hats and other apparel including boots and clothing for men and women.


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