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Big Hats

Well dusted winter hat

Along about this time of year is when I swap out my winter wardrobe for my summer one.  Nights are cool – not cold- and the days are starting to heat up considerable.  Time to swap out the winter fur/felt hat for the straw or palm leaf  hat of summer.   You know the rule of you don’t wear white after Labor Day? –  yeah, it is kinda like that.

I am not going to get into a minute history of big hats but folks that are big-hat-stupid may wanna listen up for just a minute.  Used to be, back in the day,  a cowboy wore the felt or fur hat year round.  It wasn’t until the advent of rodeos that the cheaper straw hats come on the scene.   Since a good beaver fur cowboy hat can cost  $$ hundreds, that cowboy wanted to save his good hat from taking a beating.  Makes sense.   I just don’t see how they wore those hot rascals year round.   I can’t do it.

Palm leaf hat --West Texas style

There are all different types of hats and since it is coming up summer, let me explain this straw hat deal.  Most straw hats are made out of shantung straw and the quality is denoted by the number of XXXX the hat might have.   Don’t be misled by this XXXX thing though; there is no Federal Hat Inspector that goes around grading hats so it is strictly subjective .     I try to stick with the quality makers like Stetson or Resistol and here lately Atwood.   A 4″ brim is pretty standard for a real hat.   You go any smaller than that and it sorta starts looking like the hat Mr. Douglas wore on Green Acres….  not a good look.   Get out this way in West Texas and you see plenty of wider brimmed hats made out of palm leaves that come out of Mexico.  I have gotten to favor them lately since years of sun abuse have exacted the toll on my skin.  Some folks don’t like the palm leaf hats because the weave is tighter and they tend to be a bit heavier.   I can’t tell but scant difference.  The palm leaf hats do seem to hold shape better and shed water more readily than their shantung brothers. A 4.5 or even 5″ brim is pretty common out this way.

Miss K is part of the big hat crowd

Now say you are a gate guard and your plan is to stay here in Texas during the summer.   A little ball cap is not going to cut it in the brutal heat and unforgiving sun that is Texas in the summer.   A big hat is entirely necessary if you don’t want to end up plumb crispy.  Besides,  I know most of you Yankees would secretly like to wear a big hat and get away with it so here is your chance.  It ain’t like you were up north and wearing a big hat and standing out in the crowd and feeling self conscious and all.  Big hats just go with the uniform down this way in Texas.  You ladies can get on board as well.  Wearing a big hat is not the exclusive domain of the guys.

So how do you go about selecting a big hat that is going to keep your brain from boiling and make you fit right in with the ranch guys at the same time?  First off,  you’re not Toby Keith or a Frat Boy from Austin so forget about that beat up, rolled up, all go to hell look.  You might see that on a homeless vaquero down here but not on the head of a real deal.  Just start paying attention when you are in town to the guys driving the trucks with range feeders on the back or a stock trailer in tow.  They aren’t wearing a big hat because they are headed out to the Cattlemen’s Ball; what they have on their head is there because of proven necessity.  Once you sorta have an idea of what you need, head over to the local feed store/ranch supply house.   I am not talking Tractor Supply either.  They have a pitiful selection of hats from what I have always seen.  Nope, the local store is what you need to be hunting up.  Look to pay anywhere from $20-$50 for a decent straw hat.  Keep in mind they are all gonna stretch a skooshy bit especially a shantung straw when it gets good and wet.   Try ’em on and pick out the one that suits you best and fits well.  It is really ideal to take a woman along with you because men can end up with some silly shit if allowed to shop unattended.

The last part of this entry today concerns big hat etiquette and since there are no hard and fast Emily Post rules concerning big hats, here is my take on how and when to wear ’em.

This isn’t Hollywood so I don’t tip my hat to the ladies; just seems contrived.

Indoors, I keep the hat on if I am standing up.  Think inside a store or such as that.

If I go to a restaurant or an appointment where I sit down, the hat comes off.   I never hang it on a hat rack because I have forgot too many that way.  Lay it in an extra chair or just prop it on your knee.   Ditto for a movie or any other indoor type thing.

Outdoors, like at a rodeo or race, the hat stays on.

It is poor manners to ask to see somebody’s hat and even worse to ask to see it and then put it on your head just to ‘try it out’.

You never lay a hat brim down — all the luck will fall out.

Likewise, never lay a hat on a bed.  Bad juju that one.

 End Note:

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2 comments to Big Hats

  • Ken Vender

    Yea timely report on hats. Two weeks before Easter and heading out to a big dance in Brady with the wife this weekend. Spring has sprung and it’s getting warm but not that warm yet. I suppose I will wear the silver belly beaver felt this weekend one last time. Been a mild winter and plenty of time for the straw hat this summer. Bigger challenge will be the Saturday night before Easter as we head to the rodeo; felt or straw. Teetering on one last night, saturday night felt, Easter Sunday morning straw.

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  • Tony Wooten

    I noticed that y’all stayed at the Longhorn Motel just north of Study Butte on 118. Kinda a funny, I’ve stayed in both of those rooms just over your left shoulder.
    Anyway, still enjoying your website.
    Stay safe out there.

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