The white cowboy hat is an icon of North American Western culture and is most closely associated with the cowboys of the old west. Here is a quick overview of the history of this fascinating–and highly symbolic–fashion accessory.
Significance of the White Cowboy Hat
Calgary, Canada has a custom of putting a white cowboy hat on every guest that is greeted warmly to the city by the mayor. (Rather than a key to the city, guests obtain the hat.)
It is a picture of Western hospitality and every mayor of Calgary has given it to visiting superstars, officials and athletes since the Second World War.
The white cowboy hat is likewise a symbol for the nice in people. The hero in Western films puts on a white hat and the bad fella puts on a black one.
White Cowboy Hat and the PBR
Each year the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) issues a calendar that often features their professional riders wearing white hats. The late Lane Frost loved wearing a white hat with a turkey feature in it when he rode and his best friend and fellow bull riding champ, Tuff Tedeman often wears a white when riding as well.
2009 PBR World Champion Kody Lostroh wore the white hat during many of his rides in his last season win as did two time PBR World Champion Chris Shivers. It is a favorite bull riding gear accessory for the bull rider as it symbolizes everything good in a western hero.
Basis of the White Cowboy Hat
Cowboy hats were originally designed to protect ranch workers from the rain and sun while working outdoors. John Batterson Stetson was the son of an American hat maker who grew up working in the family business.
Right after being diagnosed with tuberculosis during his early age, he left the family business to see the Wild West before he was too sick to travel. He met gold miners, ranch hands and livestock drovers towards his journey and noticed that they were wearing top hats, coonskin caps, derbies and even old military caps to keep the suns heat and rain from their heads.
Using his knowledge of the hat industry, he designed a hat that had a straight-sided crown and a wide flat brim with rounded corners. In 1865 he moved to Philadelphia were he manufactured a hat called “Boss of the plains” but soon, the people he sold it to just called it a Stetson.
It was an essential piece of equipment for the working cowboy. The Stetson was a symbol of high quality and many Old West icons wore it. Buffalo Bill, Will Rogers, Tom Mix and Annie Oakley wore Stetsons, but it was the Lone Ranger who made the white cowboy hat famous. He was never without it as he fought the bad guys and he always won. (Not a bad tradition for the hat to fall in line with.)