April 20, 2021

Western Hats

It certainly is not necessary to wear a western hat in order to ride a horse, but it isn't a bad idea either. Some hats are clearly for style and looks, but there are working hats that are designed with a purpose, and that is what we are after.

There are felt hats and straw hats. Felt hats are more often used in winter weather and help keep your head warm. They can also get very expensive -- you can pay as much as you care to; more than you can imagine. Felt hats also can be reshaped and renovated, which is not true of straw hats. I have already met people who have had the same felt hat for 20 or 30 years and it is looking good. Some working men wear felt hats year round in warm weather, and why not?

Hat that are turned up at both sides are done that way to facilitate throwing a rope -- which is something I don't anticipate doing. For just sun protection, the less turning up (and the wider the brim) the better.

Some hats are sized with precision (I take a 7-3/8 and have a normally shaped head). Others have S M L XL sizing. Some people simply avoid the hats that are only available in L or XL because they insist on a precise fit. This is certainly a good plan with a high dollar hat.

Stetson versus Resistol

These used to be separate companies, but are now owned by the same parent company (Hatco) and are made in the same factory in Garland, Texas. They are both high quality hats, and choosing between them is more a question about your head shape (and the specific model you like) than brand.

If you look at the marketing, you would probably decide that the Resistol brand is the "real deal". Stetson on the other hand seems to be trying to reinvent themselves and distance themselves from their western roots, which is too bad.

These days both Resistol and Stetson are owned by Hatco and are made in the same factory in Garland, Texas. The designs are done by different teams and each brand uses different "blocks" to shape the hats. It seems agreed on by many that Stetson uses a round oval block, while Resistol uses a long oval. A round oval fits my head better, so it will be Stetson for me. Fit, above all, is the most important thing.

Here are some comments from a Hatco representative on the "Fedoralounge" forum back in 2009:

There are differences between the hats. Different Blocks are used as well as profiles. Resistols are longer while Stetsons are rounder. Colors are different. A Silver Belly in Resistol is different from a Silver Belly in Stetson. There is sometimes material crossover (certain type of leather sweatband..etc) but all in all the designers keep their designs and their vendors/sources to themselves. If Stetson were working on a new felt or straw body, Resistol wouldn't get it and vice versa. The designers of the respective brands have a friendly rivalry... Personally I think this is the best way otherwise if they were all the same it really does become slapping a brand on a hat, and that is not what we do.

Stetson Sawmill

Knowing almost nothing, I did some reading and ran across the recommendation that if you live in a dry and hot place, a "palm leaf" hat is a good choice. I live in Arizona, so this advice seems appropriate. I visited "Arizona Hatters" and was charmed by a Stetson Sawmill. This is described as "made from durable palm leaf with a wide 3 3/4 brim". I wear a 7-3/8 hat and find the XL size Sawmill to be just right if not just a tiny bit on the large size. Better large than small, that is for sure. It is flexible and durable, albeit heavier than other "straw" hats. The featherweight straw hats strike me as too delicate, but you may have different tastes. It is made in Mexico. Like any straw hat, the price is right!

I had my eyes on the Resistol Palm Leaf "Amarillo Sky", but I found the Sawmill in the shop and liked it quite well. The Amarillo Sky does have a cattleman crown (The Sawmill has a pointed front).

Stetson Catera

This is a felt hat that I am attracted to. It is part of their oddly named "Gun Club" series. I like the color they call "Bark". I have seen this for $232 and $174, so it pays to shop around.

Stetson Sagebrush

This is a crushable hat in S, M, L, XL sizing. Wool felt, so it probably won't do well in the rain. Something to avoid in any wool felt hat is dark colors (if you think they will get wet) as you can expect color to run when wet. So buy this in the "mushroom" color. Goes for about $100.
Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

Tom's bike pages / tom@mmto.org