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Stetson

Stetson


Stetson is a brand of hat manufactured
by the John B. Stetson Company. Founded in 1865, John B. Stetson Company
began when the founder headed west and created the original hat of the West,
the “Boss of the Plains”. This Western hat would become the cornerstone of
Stetson’s hat business and is still in production today.
Stetson eventually became the world’s largest hat maker, producing more than
3,300,000 hats a year in a factory spread over 9 acres in Philadelphia. In
addition to its Western and fashion hats, Stetson also produces fragrance,
apparel, footwear, eyewear, belts, bourbon and a range of other products
evoking the historic American West. Stetson University and Stetson
University College of Law in Florida were named after John B. Stetson in 1899
for his contributions to the school. Beginnings
John B. Stetson was born in 1830 in Orange, New Jersey where his father
Stephen Stetson was a hatter. He worked in his father’s shop until he went West
for his health. Prospector’s hat
Stetson created a rugged hat for himself made from thick beaver felt while
panning for gold in Colorado. According to legend, Stetson invented the hat
while on a hunting trip while showing his companions how he could make cloth
out of fur without tanning. Fur felt hats are lighter, they maintain their
shape, and withstand weather and renovation better.
Stetson made an unusually large hat from felt he made from hides collected on the
trip, and wore the hat for the remainder of the expedition. Although initially
worn as a joke, Stetson soon grew fond of the hat for its ability to protect
him from the elements. It had a wide brim, a high crown to keep an insulating
pocket of air on the head, and was used to carry water.
As their travels continued, a cowboy is said to have seen J.B. Stetson and his
unusual hat, rode up, tried the hat on for himself, and paid Stetson for it
with a five dollar gold piece, riding off with the first western Stetson hat
on his head. Boss of the Plains
Stetson’s western adventures came to an end in 1865. Stetson, now 35 years old,
and in better health, returned east and established his own hat firm in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which produced high quality hats for outdoor
use. After producing some initial designs based on popular styles of the
day, Stetson decided to create a hat based on his experiences in the American
West, which he called the “Boss of the Plains”.
The original “Boss”, manufactured by Stetson in 1865, was flat brimmed, had a
straight-sided crown, with rounded corners. These lightweight, waterproof
hats were natural in color, with four-inch crowns and brims. A plain
hatband was fitted to adjust head size. The sweatband bore John B. Stetson’s
name. Price and popularity
Stetson produced a very expensive hat. The cowboy riding the range wearing that
“‘Boss of the Plains’ hat showed the world that he was doing well”. “Within a
decade the name John B. Stetson became synonymous with the word ‘hat’ in every
corner and culture of the West.” The shape of the hat’s crown and brim
were often modified by the wearer for fashion and to protect against weather
by being softened in hot steam, shaped, and allowed to dry and cool. Felt tends
to retain the shape in which it dries. The high-crowned, wide-brimmed,
soft-felt western hats that followed are intimately associated with the American
cowboy image. Mass production
Stetson sent a sample hat to merchants throughout the Southwest with a letter
asking for a minimum order of a dozen “Boss of the Plains” hats. The hat was
an immediate success: in less than a year Stetson set up a new factory in the
outskirts of Philadelphia to handle his growing business. By 1886, Stetson’s hat
company was the largest in the world, and had mechanized the hat-making
industry. The Stetson Hat Co. was sold to another hat company, but these hats
still bear the Stetson name with the hats being produced in St. Louis.
“Today’s cowboy hat has remained basically unchanged in construction and
design since the first one was created in 1865 by J.B. Stetson.”
Stetson also produced “dress” hats, distinguished from “western” hats by
narrower brims and shorter crowns but it was his “Boss of the Plains” style hat
and its many variants which fueled the company’s growth and fame.
Singing cowboys and ten-gallon hats In the 19th century and first half of
the 20th century, a hat was an indispensable item in every man’s
wardrobe. Stetson focused on expensive, high quality hats that represented both
a real investment for the working cowboy and statement of success for the city
dweller. Early on, Stetson hats became associated
with legends of the West, including “Buffalo Bill”, Calamity Jane, Will
Rogers, and Annie Oakley. It is said that George Custer rode into the Battle
of Little Big Horn wearing a Stetson. Later on, Western movie cowboys were
quick to adopt the Stetson; many were drawn to the largest, most flamboyant
styles available. Texans were known for their preference
for the “Ten Gallon” model. According to Win Blevins’ Dictionary of the American
West, the term “ten-gallon” has nothing to do with the hat’s liquid capacity,
but derives from the Spanish word galón, ten indicating the number of braids used
as a hat band. However, an early Stetson advertising image, a painting of a
cowboy dipping his hat into a stream to provide water for his horse, symbolized
the Cowboy hat as an essential part of a stockman’s gear and was later featured
inside every western style hat. Changing fashions
Stetson also produced women’s hats, operating a millinery department from
the 1930s to 1950s. Hat sales suffered during the Depression years, but
Stetsons remained ubiquitous until Americans’ embrace of headwear faded
after WWII. At its peak Stetson had operations in Australia, Brazil,
Colombia, Finland, Guatemala, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway,
South Africa and West Germany. Stetson changed its business strategy in
the early 1970s, closing its Philadelphia factory in 1971 and
continuing in the hat business through licensing arrangements with a number of
manufacturers. Popular demand for western style hats
spiked during the 1980s after the success of Indiana Jones and Urban
Cowboy movies. Both Western and Dress hats continue to be important men’s
accessories.=Diversification=
In the 1980s Stetson began to diversify, releasing the first Stetson cologne in
1981 and Lady Stetson in 1986. Luggage, handbags, umbrellas and scarves also
carried the Stetson mark. Today, Stetson is available in the US, Canada, Mexico
and throughout Europe and Asia. The brand currently carries western hat,
fashion hat, fragrance, eyewear, apparel, footwear, belt and accessories,
and bourbon. Military and police uniforms
=United States=The hat was first sold in Central City,
Colorado in 1865 in a style called the “Boss of the Plains.” In some versions
of the famous American folk ballad “Stagger Lee”, Billy Lyons is killed by
Stack A Lee over a Stetson hat. Troopers of modern-day US Army cavalry regiments
will often wear the stetson on ceremonial occasions in place of the ACU
patrol cap or beret. The Homicide and Robbery Bureau of the
Dallas Police used the stetson hat as a badge of office.
In addition, on April Fools’ Day, 2011, the U.S. Army released a humorous
statement that the official black beret of the Army would be replaced by
stetsons. The statement was supplemented by pictures of soldiers with stetsons
photoshopped over their berets, including an Army dog toting a stetson.
=British paramilitary=The Legion of Frontiersmen created in
1905 in England also wore the Stetson.=South African police=
The South African Constabulary organised by Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron
Baden-Powell in 1901 wore the Stetson.=Canadian military=
In the Second Boer War, the flat-brimmed Stetson became the standard issue of the
second Canadian Contingent, becoming recognized throughout the British Empire
as a symbol of Canada. Twelve hundred Canadian troops were part of the South
Africa Constabulary under the leadership of Robert Baden-Powell, and it was after
seeing these troops in action at the Relief of Mafeking that Baden-Powel
ordered 10,000 of these hats for the British Troops under his command.
=Canadian police=The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Red
Serge dress uniform includes a Stetson with a flat brim. The Stetson was first
used unofficially by the North-West Mounted Police, in place of the
traditional white pith helmet, not practical for the Canadian West. The
colour for the RCMP Stetson is sometimes referred to as “Belgian Belly”; it is a
reddish buff, pastel-like colour of the underfur of the Belgian hare. It is also
a very little-used “second name” for the Stetson. Although called a Stetson, the
hat type should be considered as a campaign hat.
The Ontario Provincial Police also wore the Stetson as part of their uniform
from 1909 to 1930s and again from 1997 to 2009.
See also Akubra
Boss of the Plains Campaign hat
Cowboy hat References
Further reading Bender, Texan Bix. Hats & the cowboys
who wear them. ISBN 1-58685-191-8 Carlson, Laurie. Boss of the Plains, the
hat that won the West. ISBN 0-7894-2479-7
Reynolds, William and Rich Rand The Cowboy Hat book. ISBN 0-87905-656-8
Snyder, Jeffrey B. Stetson Hats and the John B. Stetson Company 1865–1970. ISBN
0-7643-0211-6 External links
Stetson’s official website


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