The History of Stetson Hats

 Stetson Hats on Hat Rack

Residents of Texas have long been partial to Stetson hats. They protect your hair from the wind and cut a dashing figure, whether you wear them with jeans or a three-piece suit.


Would you like to purchase a Stetson hat in the San Antonio area? Stop into Penner’s. We sell a wide variety of hats, especially Stetson felt hats. When you want a hat that’s durable, attractive and classic, the Stetson is an answer to your prayer.


The Stetson Brand

The John B. Stetson Company has been around since 1865. It’s weathered wars, changing fashions and manufacturing advances. The Stetson was once considered a symbol of a man’s prosperity, and today people wear them as a nod to their Texan roots.


Stetson Hats Sold by Penner’s

We carry a wide selection of Stetson hats, each one made from excellent materials and designed to last for years to come. The Stetson hats in our collection make a statement. They show a great deal of personality, and anyone who wears them clearly has the confidence to pull off a unique, masculine look.


When you purchase one of our Stetson hats, you get an accessory that makes a statement. Some have feathers, while others have multicolored headbands. We provide a variety of sizes to fit any head. You can even purchase a Stetson hat box to keep your new buy safe.


Pick Penner’s for the Best in Customer Service

Penner’s has been selling San Antonio residents the best hats, clothing and shoes for more than a century. Our founder began with the idea of offering the best possible service to his customers, and it’s an approach we’ve continued to embrace all these decades later.


If you have a question, we’ll answer it. If you need assistance with your order, we’ll give it. If you want help getting hats to try on from one of our experienced staff members, some of whom have been with us for more than 25 years, we’ll provide it. There’s no concern too small to bring to our attention.


Contact Us Today to Learn More About Stetson Hats From Penner’s

If you live in the San Antonio area, come to our shop to learn more about the Stetson hats we carry and see how they look on you. If you live elsewhere, you can always put in an order online.


Call us at 210-226-2487 to get more information on a product or place your order over the phone. Our team is happy to offer assistance with anything you need!


The History of Stetson Hats

When you hear the phrase “Stetson hat,” what do you think of? Most likely, the first mental image you have is of a cowboy — probably a lone figure on horseback riding into the sunset and wearing one of these instantly recognizable hats. In fact, when we think of cowboys, it’s almost impossible to separate the idea of these near-mythic figures from their iconic headwear. Did you know Stetson also created high-quality felt hats? We're going to talk about Stetson hat history, in general, but here at Penner's we have a wide selection of Stetson's high-quality felt hats for sale. Check them out!


Where did this image of a Stetson hat-wearing cowboy come from? Did cowboys actually wear these hats? And whether or not they did, how have they become so entrenched in our vision of the American West and the cowboy?


It’s a fascinating story and one that’s worth taking a little bit of time to examine. That’s why we’re going to look at the history of the Stetson hat — who created it, how it was designed and what purpose it was built to serve.


In addition to learning some Stetson hat history, we’ll also look at this hat in general. We’ll talk about the way it’s constructed, how to determine which size is the right fit for you and also how to take care of your hat. By the time you’re finished reading this piece, you’ll be an expert on the Stetson hat.


The History of the Stetson Hat


The history of the Stetson hat begins with John Batterson Stetson. He was born in New Jersey in 1830, years before cowboys roamed the West. His father was a financially successful hatter who taught all his children the family business. John was no exception, and he would learn all about how to make and sell hats as he grew up.


After John’s father passed away, he decided to open up his own hat shop. However, before he could do that, in 1854, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The doctor predicted John would only live for a short time more, so he moved across the country to Missouri to explore the West and also in the hopes that a different climate would help him regain his health. During the Civil War, he tried to join the Union army but was rejected because of his illness.


After that, he worked at a brickyard, and he became a partner in the operation. Unfortunately, the entire business was destroyed when the nearby river flooded.


In need of something financially lucrative, in he tried his hand mining for gold at Pike’s Peak in the Rocky Mountains. The gold mining was a bust, but his health improved, and he he did come up with some brilliant ideas for crafting the ideal hat.


At last, in 1865, he moved to Philadelphia and decided to return to his roots as a hatter. He knew, however, that the Eastern hat market was extremely tough to break into. Instead, he decided to try his luck developing a hat for the Western market. He rented one small room, bought materials and began making his first hats.


John Stetson made a different hat for each dealer based in the American Southwest, all based on a style he’d developed during his own travels in the West. Just a few of these numerous Stetson hat styles developed from 1870 to 1900 were the Boss of the Plains, Dakota, Railroad, Columbia and Alaska styles.

John Stetson Hat Styles

As it turned out, his decision to sell his hats in the West was unquestionably the right ones. His hats became hugely popular, and his business expanded at a rapid rate. By 1872, his he was able to market the hats directly out of his own catalog. By the mid-1880s, he employed nearly 4,000 people at the world’s largest hat factory.


John Stetson passed away in 1906, but his company prospered. His company continued to follow men’s fashion trends, and it created versions of the top hat, homburg, bowler, trilby and fedora.


Unique Features of the Stetson Hat


When the Stetson hat was first designed and marketed, it had a few unique features that set it apart from the competition. These elements came straight from John Stetson himself, who had noticed on his travels that these were the things his hat at the time had lacked. The hats he designed, then, were not just meant to be fashionable. They were primarily intended to be functional.


The original Stetson hat had a high seven-inch crown and a wide seven-inch brim. It was designed first and foremost to be able to withstand a beating. It was made from a thick fur felt that was intended to keep the elements off the wearer and that wouldn’t be destroyed by the elements itself. In addition to this, it was designed to keep its shape no matter what was thrown at it.


One unique design feature was the unusually high crown of the hat. This served two separate and equally important purposes. Firstly, this high crown created a pocket of warm air on top of the wearer’s head that would keep the head warm even in the rain and cold. Secondly, the hat could be turned over, and the high crown would become a deep bucket that could be used to transport water. In many of the semi-arid regions of the West, this was an invaluable feature.

Stack of Stetson Hats

Interestingly enough, this water-carrying ability is what earned the Stetson hat the nickname “10-gallon” hat. The nickname is inaccurate, since the original hats could never have held more than a half-gallon of water. Still, the nickname helped convey the idea that these hats were extremely practical and would soon become viewed as almost a necessity among Westerners.


Another feature of the hat that made it invaluable to Westerners was the wide brim. A person could wear the hat in the rain, and the brim would be so wide that unless the rain was slanting down at an extremely sharp angle, the wearer’s face would never even get wet.


Finally, one of the most notable features of the Stetson hat had nothing to do with practicality. While built to withstand a beating, Stetson hats were also easily customizable. They all came out of the factory looking the same, but wearers could easily find ways to make the hat more personal to themselves. Wearers could crease the hat, bend the brim, punch in the top of the crown or add a different band around the hat. Different ways of wearing the hat would become associated with different subcultures and were all ways of expressing individuality.


One popular way of wearing the hat was known as the Cattleman. This involved creating a crease in the crown and denting it on either side. Other popular styles included the rodeo crease, the quarter horse crease, the tycoon and more.


Because the hats combined so many practical features, they became a staple for many cowboys and Western settlers in general. Their popularity was enormous at the time, and over the years, it has become irreversibly tied up in our image of a cowboy.

 Cowboy Wearing Stetson Hat

How Stetson Hats Are Made


Let’s break down the process by which these hats are constructed:


1. Cutting and Sorting


  • The pelts being used are cleaned to remove impurities and grease.
  • A process known as carroting takes place, where an acid solution is applied to the fur to prepare it for felting.
  • The pelts go into a cutting machine that separates the fur from any remaining skin.
  • The fur is fed into picking and blowing machines where it is sorted.
  • The fur then gets bagged and shipped off to the body plants.


2. Felt Mixing and Shaping


  • The fur is weighed out and combined to create the appropriate mix.
  • The fur is cleaned and mixed together to form a fine blend.
  • After this, the fur enters a feeder where it is further broken down into a softer blend.
  • From there, the fur enters a blowing machine that removes any impure elements from the blend.
  • The blend travels down a conveyor where it is pressed out into long uniform sheets.
  • These sheets are blown onto a dome-shaped prototype, where they form the rough body of the hat. The dome is then spun rapidly, gathering the fur around it — much in the same way cotton candy is wrapped around a stick.
  • The dome is then submerged in hot water to mold the materials into place.


3. Felting and Dying


  • The dome-shaped piece is repeatedly dipped in hot water and twisted.
  • It is then put through a hardening machine multiple times, where it begins to shrink.
  • The hat is then dyed the desired color.


4. Pouncing and Blocking


  • During the blocking phase, one worker stretches the crown. Another creates the brim and band-line. Finally, another worker sets the final shape of the hat and coats it with a stiffening agent.
  • The hat is flipped inside out and dries overnight.
  • The following day, a worker sandpapers the hat to eliminate any remaining surface hair. This process is called pouncing.
  • The band is sewn into place where the brim and the crown meet.


5. Finishing


  • The hat is pressed over a wooden block to shape the crown before being steamed to help the shape hold.
  • The brim is plaited, and the crown is ironed.
  • The crown receives one last sandpaper treatment to remove any excess fur and create a finished look.
  • A layer of powder is added for softening.
  • Workers finish shaping the hat’s brim, which is then pressed so the shape will hold.


6. Sweatband Addition


  • The band is placed around the hat, with any extra material being cut off.
  • The band is first sewn, then glued or tacked into place.
  • The hat received a final brushing, cleaning and steaming.
  • The brim is cut for the final time.


7. Additional Touches


  • During this stage, the hat is creased to specifications.
  • A name pad is pressed into place on the inside of the crown.
  • The cleaning instructions tag is glued into place.
  • If eyelets are a feature of this model, they are added into the crown.


What Do the X’s in Your Stetson Hat Mean?


If you’ve ever worn a Stetson Hat before, you’ve probably noticed the small X markings inside it. Not only that, but you’ve probably also noticed that these markings are different in different hats.

 Stetson X

These X’s are a designation of how high the fur content is in the felted blend the hat is made of. The more fur in the blend, the higher the X count will be. A 2X hat, for example, has a low fur content. Because of this, it’ll have a stiffer feel. A 100X hat, on the other hand, has a much higher percentage of fur and will feel much softer and silkier.

What Size Stetson Hat Should You Wear?


Not sure what size hat to buy? There’s no need to worry. Measuring your head is a lot simple than you might think. Here’s how to do it.


Start by using a tape measure or a piece of string that you can measure against a ruler later. Place the string or measuring tape around your head 1/8 of an inch above your ear and across your mid-forehead. You should be grasping the tape firmly, but not so tightly that it leaves a mark. Compare the measurement you get to this handy sizing chart to see which size is best for your head. If you find yourself between sizes, always go with the bigger of the two.


How to Care for Your Stetson Hat


Stetsons are built to last, but it doesn’t hurt to take good care of them as well. Here are some basic tips and tricks to keep your Stetson in great condition for years to come:


How to Clean and Care for a Stetson Felt Hat

Stetson Hat Care Tips

  • Brush off any dirt or dust with a soft brush, moving counter-clockwise around the hat.

  • Store your hat upside down on the crown to keep the brim from becoming flat.

  • Don’t expose your hat to stoves, lamps or enclosed cars in the summer, as the heat and your sweat will make it shrink.

  • Handle the crown as infrequently as possible. Always hold the brim when putting on or removing the hat.

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