John Batterson Stetson came from a long line of hatters, and when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, he headed west during the 1860s. After setting up shop in Missouri, Stetson created the original cowboy hat - the Boss of the Plains hat.
It looks little like what we might imagine for the typical
cowboy hat, with a round brim and uncreased crown. Originally
made from beaver fur and designed to be lightweight and
waterproof, it was not until the Boss of the Plains hat was
already popular that it began to morph into something closer to
the cowboy hats we think of today.
Wearers in different
areas started customizing their hats, and the creases and folds
of the hats developed into their own type of language. They
defined status, occupation, and where a person was from, until
Stetson adopted the five most popular creases into his official
Notable people who wore
Stetson hats included Colonel William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody,
Calamity Jane, Will Rogers, and Annie Oakley.
Mar 6, 2015
The cowboy is one of the most iconic images in American history, but that doesn't mean our understanding of it isn't flawed. The iconic Stetson might be what every cowboy wears in Westerns, but it wasn't what they actually wore in real life until the very end of the Wild West. The Stetson wasn't even around until 1865 and in fact, it became really popular at the end of the 19th century. Up until then, the derby, also known as the bowler hat was most popular. The sombrero was also quite popular, but a gentleman might have preferred a top hat.