A police officer saw a man dressed as a cowboy in the street, complete with huge Stetson hat, spurs, and six shooters.” Excuse me, sir,” said the police officer, “who are you?” “My name’s Tex, officer,” said the cowboy.” Eh?” said the police officer, “Are you from Texas?” “Nope…. Louisiana.” “Louisiana? So why are you called Tex?” “Think about it… you wouldn’t want to be called Louise would you?”
Prior to about 1865, people in the West wore just about any hat to protect their head. There was no such thing as a cowboy hat or Western hat as we know it today.
In the early 1860’s, John B. Stetson had been invited on a trip to Colorado to go up into the mountains when he used his hat making skills to create a wide brim hat for his trip. Stetson amused his friends by showing them how he could make cloth out of fur without weaving. Stetson used the fur from hides collected from hunting. Kneading the fur and working it with his hands, dipping it into boiling water, spreading it out, kneading it, and dipping it again, he created a soft, smooth piece of felt.
Stetson made an unusually large hat out of this fur-felt. He then wore the hat for the remainder of his hunting trip, at first as a joke, and then grew fond of the hat for its protection from the weather. He and other cowboys of the west ended up liking the idea so well that Stetson soon manufactured and sold a hat true to his original idea. It grew so popular, everyone on the trip wanted one. In 1865, with $100, John B. Stetson rented a small room, bought the tools he needed, bought $10 worth of fur, and the John B. Stetson Hat Company was born. A year later the “Hat of the West” or the now famous “Boss of the Plains” hat was born and the name Stetson was on its way to becoming the world leader in cowboy hats.
One thing that has puzzled me for years is the whole “ten gallon” hat label. Cowboy hats certainly don’t look like they would hold ten gallons, but there it is right in the name. (They don’t hold ten gallons, by the way, but more like three quarts.)
So why call it a ten gallon hat? The most popular theories as to how the term entered the English language revolve around the corruption of Spanish terms. Although the ten-gallon hat is an internationally recognized icon of the American West, the hat actually started life as a head covering used by Mexican ranchers. The name was never meant to imply that the hat was ten gallons in size or such, but it most likely came into being as a misinterpretation of either “tan galán” (“really handsome” or “so fine”) or galón (a Spanish term which referred to the narrow braided band around the crown of the hat). As such, either term was most likely corrupted when John Stetson used the label “ten-gallon” to describe his hats.
Looking back at history the U.S. rose to greatness by leading the world in innovation – like John Stetson’s innovative headwear–we need to innovate again to allow our economy to grow.