Category Archives: Culture

Country Facts, You Didn’t Know This

John Batterson Stetson may have created with the invention of the modern American cowboy hat, but the idea wasn’t new. The broad brim and high crowned hat has been a part of rider culture all the way back to the 1200s where the renowned Mongolian riders used similar hats to protect themselves from the elements. Many similar styles can be found in the warm climates around the world, where a high crown is needed to provide the wearer with insulation from the sun, and the large round brim to offer shade. This can also be in the Mexican sombrero which literally translates into “shade maker.”

Still it isn’t known when the “cowboy hat” was first used to describe such a hat. In fact there were many different types of hats worn during the expansion west. This ranged from top hats to sailor caps and everything in between. You might find it interesting to learn that the cowboy hat was not the most popular hat in the old west. At least not always. The bowler could have just as easily been the hat we now associate with Western culture. It was once even called the “hat that won the West.” If you are familiar with many of these hats you’ll be able to find the characteristic elements used today just like they were more than a hundred years ago (J. B. Stetson’s Boss of the Plains – 1865) in the design.

Invented out West, imported East

Many of the men that traveled out West quickly realized how important the hat was when traveling across the harsh environment. When some of the men returned East after making their fortune they couldn’t part with this valuable head wear. And the Boss of the Plains soon walked down Wall Street.

The hat traversed all layers of society. Proving to be an investment to the working cowboy and a symbol of success for the rich. Today cowboy hats still embody this same status and symbolism.

Ronald Reagan and John Wayne are two of the most famous wearers of the cowboy hat. These two men not only carried the hat well, they embodied the spirit and the charisma of the West.

But many famous people have dawned the hat, which has become a symbol of America.

On the Cowboy Hat

Do you have your cowboy hat handy? Good. 🙂 Today I wanted to post little bit about this simple yet elegant hat. A hat that has remained nearly unchanged since it was first designed by the famous J. B. Stetson all the way back in 1965.

First a little bit on the basics of the design. Material plays an important role in the design of the hat. This makes different aspects more prominent and care is also a consideration when you pick out a cowboy hat. Most hats are made from felt. The felt is a fur based product and when properly made and cared for has a very durable and light quality. Some hats can also be made from straw, and make a perfect accessory for a hot summer day. The hat can also be crafted from leather, though you will rarely see hats like this due to the nature of the material. Both because of the comfort – that is lack of breathe-ability – and the care that goes into a hat made from leather.

One thing that makes the cowboy hat so attractive is the amount of customization that is afforded to the wearer. While most hats have a minimum number of ways to be personalized by the owner, cowboy hats are much freer.

The crown is tall and round when you first purchase a cowboy hat. This allows you to shape the hat to your liking by creasing the crown.

The brim is wide and flat. And as we all know rarely stays like that. Many people enjoy rolling the brim to suit their tastes. From the slight curl to the more dramatic, the hat allows you to shape it the way you like. Decorative bands can and often are added to the hat. Though the style and taste of the band vary by region. The stampede or wind strings as they are sometimes called are more commonly found in the Western variants. With the country style having a simpler, sometimes wider band encompassing the outside of the crown.

Hats are fitted loosely. They employee a simple sweatband on the inside and the hat band which allows it to be fitted to the wearer’s head.

Today the hats are sold to just about every segment of the population. And they come in just about any color you could possibly want. The color offering began to become popularized in the 1940s, you may recognize this date from earlier posts on the rising popularity of country music. While the common colors are still: black, brown and most importantly beige.

The Story of the Tough Cowboy

We all know how hard farm and ranch life is. That’s why we need clothing that lasts. Boots, jeans and even the hats have to durable and hold up to the everyday wear and tear that they are exposed to.

But one story really stands out as a tribute to this toughness.

The original “Boss of the Plains” design of Stetson cowboy hats was known for their legendary durability but it wasn’t until 1912 that this became a fact. You see, it was in this year that the battleship USS Maine was salvaged from the ocean. The battle ship had sunk in 1898 in the Havana harbor and it laid there untouched for 14 years. 😮 When the wreckage was finally brought to the surface the workers made a remarkable discovery.

Apparently one of the crew members had brought along an original Stetson. It had been underwater for the whole time, and when it sunk it already had thirty-three years of use behind it. How many of us have had a hat we used regularly for over a third of a century? The Boss was exposed to sea water, to mud and ooze, even plant growth. Still when the workers took and cleaned the hat it appeared undamaged from its time at the bottom of the harbor.

Talk about water-resistant.

Variations of Square Dance

As we know a square dance is generally made up of four couples, who then dance in a square. Now I wonder where the name came from. Four couples, four points in a square. And then they even dance in that formation, somebody tried hard to come up with an imaginative name here, I never would have guessed it. All joking aside, it is easy to visualize this dance because of its descriptive name. But looks at some other variants and see if you can figure them out.

  • Hexitation
  • Ninepins
  • Twelve Reel
  • Winter Solstice

Are you able to decipher the style from the names I’ve given you? Take a look at them for a moment. And then when you feel like you have a good idea continue on down the page. Feel free to leave a comment if you got them, or even better if you didn’t get them correct. Explain a little what you thought they would look like.

Hexitation

First up, Hexitation. If you know how the dance normally looks then you should have been able to guess this one. That is why it was first in the list. The variation here is that two couples take the role in the Head position.

Ninepins

Do you remember what I wrote in the beginning of this article. A country square dance usually consists of four couples. What happens when you add a single to the middle? Well, you got Ninepins then.

Twelve Reel

Here is a fun one for the cowboys in the audience. Build a square with three people on all four sides. This is usually danced with a man in the middle and a lady on each side.

Winter Solstice

This one is like Ninepins, but instead of a single dancer we add a couple to the middle. Fun to dance at weddings where the couple in the middle is the new bride and groom. And yes you can dance it anytime.

And that is just a couple of the many variations.