A few days ago you confronted me saying that my cowboy hat ain’t a cowboy hat or western enough because “it’s a fedora.” And in the last 6 (almost 7) years of driving tours and fielding dumb questions by tourists, I have rarely encountered a statement so ignorant as to be downright idiotic, and certainly never one directed at me! Just recently I’ve had several passengers at Garden of the Gods say they hoped they’d get me as their guide because they thought I really looked the part:
For point of reference, my hat is this one, a model made by Stetson, whose illustrious place in Western (and local) history you should know well: the original, the “Boss of the Plains,” was first sold in Central City, CO in 1865. With all due respect, I regard their opinion of what constitutes a western hat higher than I do yours. Also, absolutely every article of clothing you see me wearing in the above picture (and everything you can’t see) was made in the United States of America; I wonder if you could say the same on any given day. There is nothing about my look that isn’t pure Americana. Also it seems a strange time to bring it up, considering I’ve owned and worn this hat for nearly three years now.
(and this is how it looked brand new)
I don’t think I’d really care to have this argument if you weren’t over me and might have the power to make me stop wearing my favorite hat, so let’s do have this argument. Now I suppose that when I think of the fedora and its famous wearers, topping the list would be Indiana Jones, and then perhaps Humphrey Bogart in any number of films. Now I love a fedora because of these guys, they’re the epitome of mid-century cool. My grandpa wore fedoras, one which I still have and wear. I like the style, the look, and the ergonomics of it; it is familiar. While not truly popular until the 1930s and ’40s the style itself can be found as far back as the 1880s if not earlier, and was worn by men since at least the 1890s along with similar hats like the homburg. The fedora was worn (again by Bogart) in one of the best western films ever made, John Huston’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
On the right is Tim Holt wearing a pinched-front western hat.
Because of all the popular ways to crease a cowboy hat, one common style is called the pinched-front crease. And I have numerous references to that effect:
It’s even a fact that cowboys back in the 1800s were wearing the pinched-front style, and there are several historical examples of this on display at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma:
For further angles on this display I would send you here, here, and here.
You can also see historical pinched-front styles celebrated here and here. I especially liked this pic from the late ’30s and include it below:
(probably a Kodachrome slide if I had my guess)
These are historical cowboys as they were dressing before Jack Weill of Rockmount (another Colorado connection) had created western wear as its own unique clothing style; that wouldn’t happen for nearly another decade. So the pinched-front crease is an even older cowboy institution than either the bolo tie or the western snap shirt!
And another, a 1937 Arthur Rothstein photograph for the FSA
Anticipating a deflection to an entirely different argument, that of what the *ahem* general public will accept and expect a cowboy to look like (doubtless with eventual allusions to Walt Disney), I started off with passengers’ feedback regarding my look. The public at large has never vocally questioned whether or not I looked enough like a cowboy, so is this perhaps your own perception rather than anyone else’s? By that same reasoning I would expect you to take exception to the look of this particular cowboy:
“That’s a terrible cowboy name!”
Actually I could give you an entire gallery here but a simple google image search for “John Wayne hat” will suffice. Or look here, here, and here. Hell, Stetson even has a line of hats now that they call the John Wayne collection, all with pinched-front creases, because I guess he really liked the style! And if The Duke isn’t enough of a cowboy for you or the perceived public you hide behind, here are other movie cowboys wearing the same style in these articles from True West Magazine: Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, Wayne (again), Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, the Lone Ranger, and Roy Rogers. I can’t tell you how much sleep I lost researching this and putting it together; honestly I regret the necessity of it, but there it is.