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Ode to the western hat…

June 23, 2010

A hat by a church pew

A proper hat rests in the isle during services at St. Peters Church in The Dalles. Copyright Mark B. Gibson

This was originally published in The Dalles Chronicle, some years ago.  I just went six months without a proper hat… the hat referanced here is probably well on its way to the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia River, unless it’s hung up at Bonneville Dam or some brush pile along shore.

It’s that time of year again, and unless your showin’ chickens you really can’t enjoy a fair or a rodeo parade without a wide-brimmed western hat.

I bought my old one for seven greenbacks and two bits at the local thrift shop. It needed a bit of work, but not as much as my new hat does. Both are felt. Leather loses its shape too quickly.

The first thing to do when you buy a cowboy hat is get rid of that ridiculous rodeo curl over the ears. Real cowboys wear baseball caps because they’re cooler and shade the eyes better. Wearing a cowboy hat is like wearing an umbrella, so keep the curls in your hair and flatten the brim.

You can do that any number of ways. Some folks go skinny dippin’ in their hats, then dry them to shape. Others run over ’em with the truck. I know the first works, but I can’t speak for the second.

Rip the out by itself. I like to get it over with right off the bat. It’s made to come out easy..

I’ve heard that some fellows throw their hat in the dirt at this point, trying to add the realistic touch. That’s cheating, of course, the kind of thing you see behind the barn at a dude ranch. If you’re going to throw your hat down like that, you’ve got to keep your head in it.

I’ll maybe prop mine up on a post and pop it with my lever-action 38-40. Watch the angle, though, or your won’t have any hat left. A 22-calibar does all right, but doesn’t look as cool or make much of a ventilation hole. My cousin has a black powder rifle, so I’m going to hold off ventilating my new hat till he can do the trick for me.

Now your ready for the real art of the wide-brimed hat: The hat band. Did I mention cutting it off first thing? If I didn’t, now is the time. Or you could try shooting it off, maybe, if you’ve got something with a scope on it.

A real hat band should be handmade, your own hands or those of another. For strength replace the bottom synthetic band with a leather lace, then go decorative.

An outer band can be as simple as a bandanna tied headband style around the crown, a popular style with cowboys and bank robbers both.

Glass beading can be beautiful, as can porcupine quill work, should you know any porcupines. Avoid emblazoned your name, though. It could be embarrassing should someone steal your hat and leave it where it shouldn’t have been.

Bands can be knit, braided, carved, stamped or tied. I personally can never stick with one creation and often end up without any band at all, but no band is better than a bad band, as they say in the music business.

You can adorn the crown with pins or earrings, dangle your high school tassel off the back. Heck, you could even tie-die it, if it’s white.

It’s a free country, don’t you know?


Note: Assuming, of course that you don’t attend The Dalles High School, where hats have been banned for inside wear by the new Code of Dress.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2010 20:53

    I totally enjoyed this piece. lol Alan identifies with every word you wrote–I’m not sure about the ventilation holes, though! (guffaw)

    I can just see you and a buddy taking pot shots at the ole’ head warmer!

  2. Clytie permalink
    June 24, 2010 18:31

    Guffaw, I just started my morning off – not with a smile, but a belly laugh!!!

    Thank you so much for this (re) post!

    Love it!

    Except now my brain is full of all kinds of disturbing images of cowboys n’ hats!

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