"The Most Recognizable Piece of Apparel"

Monday, October 5, 2015 - 12:45pm
by Channing Boone

For over 100 years, the cowboy hat has become an iconic piece that symbolizes horsemen and women around the globe, tying them all together under one brim. The “Boss of the Plains,” was the first recorded hat to serve as a cowboy’s protector against the bitter wind, hard rains and scorching sun often experienced while making a homestead or driving cattle across hundreds of miles.

Over the years, hats have been used to serve two purposes: fashion and function. Colors, brims, crowns and shapes have all been modified to adhere to current trends. However, the cowboy hat has not lost its legacy of functionality and durability, which often deem it as a cowboy’s “best friend.” One company that preserves this legacy and continues to provide only the best to their customers is American Hat Co.

Sam Silver founded American Hat Co. in 1915 and set to work creating and cultivating an art in the town of Conroe, Texas. One hundred years have passed since then and American Hat Co. has continued its legacy through its motto, “Proud to be an American.”

American Hat Co. moved its headquarters to Bowie, Texas when Keith and Susan Maddox purchased the company from Bill and Billie George in 2003. The Maddox’s continue the American Hat Co. tradition today by providing American made hats to retailers in the U.S.. American Hat Co. hats can be located at almost any western equine event in the country, including the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Many cowboys and tourists have stepped foot in The Best Hat Store located in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards. There, three men, Danny Adams, Clayton Patterson and Ryan McBride shape American Hat Co. hats into a work of art.

“We get to do a lost trade, it’s a lost art,” said Patterson. “We take it for granted most days that we have a job that we love and is unique…a job creating something that goes back to the beginning of the cowboy heritage.”

In order to make a piece of art original, the artist has to begin with a blank canvas. American Hat Co. created the concept of an “open crown” hat. An open crown allows a hat to be shaped with endless possibilities and provides originality.

“The beauty of starting with an open crown is that we can make it exactly to the specifications of the customer,” said Patterson. As with any clothing item, time and imagination have changed the shape and colors of the cowboy hat over the years.

Today, the most popular hat shapes are the Minnick and the classic Cattleman. In earlier days, a taller crown (the shape most commonly spoke and sang about, a ten gallon) was the norm. And as history often recycles, so does style and fashion.

“The younger generation is gravitating to a taller shaped crown,” said Patterson. “It is more beneficial because you can get into  your hat a lot better.”

The fashion industry is also beginning to expand the styles of a cowboy hat. At the American Hat Co. they have produced a variety of options that cater to the non-traditional cowboy hat.

The fedora has become an icon among the ladies both in and out of the western world. These fashionable head wear pieces come in various colors and can be worn in the summer and winter. A straw fedora offers a great alternative to the typical ball cap while still shading your face from the sun.

Then, there is my favorite, a felt fedora. Throw it on with a pair of cowgirl boots and you have taken cowgirl chic to a whole new level. The classic tan and brown colors that are a popular choice at the American Hat Co., make for a fashionable fall accessory you will want to have in your closet throughout the cold winter months. Just like each cowboy hat is shaped, a fedora can be molded and shaped to fit and frame a face perfectly!

It is reassuring to see young men and women who want to preserve the western lifestyle and who willingly take on the responsibilities that come along with it. Our nation was founded on freedom and hard work and some of the hardest working men and women I know, live their life under the brim of a cowboy hat.

“You might see a guy dressed up in cowboy attire, but you don’t notice him unless he has his cowboy hat on,” said McBride.

The cowboy hat has become an iconic piece throughout the world. Songs, poems ballads and books have all revolved around the cowboy hat and the purpose it serves. I think Keith Mundee, President of American Hat Co. put the popularity of a hat best when he said the cowboy hat is “the most recognizable piece of apparel on the planet.

While a cowboy hat does not shape a person’s values and morals, it becomes part of who they are and is often reflected by their character.

I have heard it said many times throughout the rodeo, show horse and cattle industries, “that hat has character.” Whether a hat is spotless or covered in dirt, is shaped as a Cattlemen or a Gus crown, the character in each hat comes from the person wearing it.

As time marches on, wear your hat proudly and continue to let your character shine through the most fashionable and functional piece of apparel known to man. Help preserve the heritage of western lifestyle; wear your hat with dignity and respect and know that you have a piece of history sitting atop your head.

We had such a great time seeing all of your cowboy hat photos that you submitted via social media! Below are a few we selected to incorporate with the post. We thought these photos had tons of character! If you’d like to see all of the submissions visit RIDE TV on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/RideTVNetwork.