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Most people will undoubtedly recognise cowboy hats – whether you’re rodeo aficionado, love country music or just a huge fan of western films, you’ll likely have seen your fair share of these wonderful hats. If you’re not too familiar with them, cowboy hats (sometimes referred to as ten-gallon hats) are a very recognisable style of hat due to their extensive overflow and huge, protruding crown. Although they certainly occupy a cultural place, it’s often unknown or at least misunderstood how cowboy hats came about in the first place – in this article, we take a look at their history to give you a better idea about how these hats became the icons they remain to this day.

The beginnings of the cowboy hat

Cowboy hats, although very much a product of the history of the United States, have infiltrated every corner of the world – a good example of this is Australia’s very own example of the style, the Akubra Arena. The hat of a cowboy is arguably their defining feature, offering a healthy combination of unique fashion and highly functional weather protection against the often-harsh desert elements. Even though the brim is so closely associated with the cowboy hat, the original example developed in 1865 actually did not have demonstrate the round, curved brim the cowboy hats of today have. Instead, the first cowboy hat, designed by John B. Stetson in 1865, offered all of the weather protection required from a hat, but was actually made out of the fine fur of beavers, rabbits and other small animals – not quite what you’d expect! John Stetson was a famous hat manufacturer during the American civil war era and originally hailed from Philadelphia, and his design of the first cowboy hat quickly gained popularity so rapidly that it was quickly referred to as the “Boss of the Plains.”

The cowboy hats various iterations

From humble beginnings, the “Boss of the Plains” saw several extensive overhauls that eventually saw it become the cowboy hat we now use to this day. It was in Mexico during the 19th century that the cowboy hat was redesigned to have a tall crown, which allowed for much improved insulation from the intense heat, alongside a widening of the brim to provide better shade from the often intensely hot and sunny days in Mexico. To increase function even further, the edges of this new hat redesign curved upwards so as not to interfere with any use of rope throwing and pulling. As there were no real practical hats that were adopted by the masses in the United States, tis new iteration of the cowboy hat was adopted by the masses in order to fulfil their needs and adapted it as required, in particular those in desert communities.

The modern cowboy hat

Although the cowboy hate saw wide use in the United States, its highly functional uses and great aesthetics eventually saw it being adopted across the entire world. Now it is often used as much as a fashion hat than it is as a functional hat, with many people wearing it as a result of seeing it being worn by icons they love. For this reason, the cowboy hat has historically been popular among presidents, musicians, and other notable figures in popular culture.

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