-By Warner Todd Huston
If you know me you know that I am what ya might call “a hat guy.” For much of my life one of my “things” has been the wearing of a hat. Some people knew me for my Civil War-styled black slouch hat. Some knew me for my ball cap with that collection of lapel pins on it. Many more have known me for my fedoras. Certainly if you’ve known me for long you’ve known me for a distinctive hat of some type or another. In this post I’ll take you through my fedora collection, the hat style most people know me for these days.
First of all fedoras are a man’s hat — not that women shouldn’t wear one — but real men wear real fedoras. By real I mean well made, professional hats, not those crappy cotton ones with the silly stripes, colors, or wacky pictures on them, the kind that you can buy at Target these days. Certainly fedoras mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people and fedora styles are many and varried, but I’ll tell you what a fedora is to me.
A fedora is a fur felt hat (the “fur” part being beaver or rabbit fur — just the fur, not the skin) with at least a four inch crown. It has to have a brim that measures between 2-1/4 inches and 3-7/8 inches with about 2-5/8 being my favorite width. I don’t do stingy brims at under 2-1/4 and larger than 2-7/8 and you are usually talking cowboy hats at that point. I have several westerns but am not “into” them if you know what I mean? But for sure I don’t do Trilbys or stingy brims.
I also am not really a great fan of new, factory-made fedoras. I rather stick to vintage fedoras. For the most part new hats are not very interesting to me — though I have a few. I just prefer the feel and quality of vintage fedoras to today’s lesser quality factory hats. My style preference ranges from those styles popular from the late 1920s to about 1960.
More Hat Related Posts
Anyway, without further ado, here they are and with the Stetsons listed first. (By the way, as I frequently add new fedoras and sell off others, these listings will change)
John B. Stetson Hat Company is perhaps one of the most famous hat makers in the world (Italy’s Borsalino being right up there). John B. Stetson’s father taught him how to make hats in the early 1800s and John started his own company in Philadelphia in 1865. Soon he became famous for his wide brimmed, western-styled cowboy hats. But the cowboy hat isn’t the only hat style Stetson manufactured. In fact they made just about every kind of hat you can imagine. The original Stetson company went defunct in the 1970s but Stetsons are still made today under contract by a company in Texas.
Sadly, the Stetson family is out of the hat business nowadays. For my interests, though, Stetson made some of the finest fedoras in the world and here are the ones in my collection..
We’ll start at the obvious place. Stetson’s famed cowboy hats…
Stetson, No. 1 Quality, “The Fray,” Kettle Curl Brim, Black – 1894 to 1915
Stetson, 3X, Boss Raw Edge, Kettle Finish, Dress Western, Natural – Between 1900 and 1920
Stetson, Boss Raw Edge, Kettle Finish, Dress Western, Natural – Between 1900 and 1920
Stetson, No. 1 Quality, Silverbelly – 1900 to 1920s
Stetson, Nutria Felt, Brown – 1910s or 20s
Stetson Boss Raw Edge, Real Nutria, Kettle Curl Brim, Silverbelly – Late 1920s or Early 1930s
Stetson, Boss Raw Edge, Clear Nutria, Tan – 1930s
Stetson, No. 1 Quality, White – 1930s
Stetson, No. 1 Quality, Brown – 1930s (Same model as above, even from the same store in California)
Stetson No. 1 Quality, Kettle Curl Brim, Black – Late 1940s or Early 1950s
Stetson 30X El Patron, 2000s (The original ribbon has been replaced with this brown, 1/2 version)
And now my Stetson fedoras, derbies and top hats…
Stetson Long Hair (or Plushe), Black – 1920s
Stetson, Derby or Bowler – 1900s to 1920s
Stetson, Top Hat – Between 1900s and 1930 (Or maybe late 1800s, not sure)
Stetson, Collapsible or Opera Top Hat – 1930s
Stetson, The Avenue, Light Tan – 1920s
Stetson, The Avenue, Bowler, Black – 1920s
Stetson, Select Quality, “The Fray” Sweatband, Blue – 1920s
Stetson, Standard Quality, Brown (This one sold right at Stetson’s Philadelphia Shop) – 1930s
Stetson, Select Quality, Black – 1930s
Stetson, Select Quality, Homburg, Gray – 1930s
Stetson, Straw Boater – 1930s
Stetson, Three Way – 1941 (Rare Model)
Stetson, Three Way Box (Also rare)
Stetson, Beach Comber, Creme/Tan – This model was first introduced in 1937, so this is late 30s or early 40s
Stetson, Imperial in a Brownish Gray, 1940s
Stetson, Special, Bluish-Gray With Blue Ribbon – 1940s
Stetson, Casual, Camel Tan With Pugaree-Style Ribbon – 1940s
Stetson, The Slant, Dark Blue-Green – 1941 (This is a rare model. Wasn’t made very long. And, yes, it IS slanted as you can see. Hence the name.)
Stetson, Vita Felt, De Luxe, Brown – 1944
Stetson, Imperial, 3X, Mode Edge, Vita Felt, Gray – Early 1940s
Stetson, Medalist, Panama Straw 1940s
Stetson, Premier, Panama Straw 1940s
Stetson, Sovereign, Twenty, Mode Edge, Brown – Made Between 1951 and 1953
Stetson, Diplomat, Brown w/Reddish Brown ribbon – 1940s
Stetson, Royal De Luxe, Tan/Cream – 1940s
Stetson, Zephyr Weight, Hunter Green – 1940s
Stetson, Vogue, Khaki – 1940s
Stetson, Genuine Milan Panama, – Made Between 1951 and 1953
Stetson, 3X, Sixteen Fifty, Long Hair (or Plushe) Mode Edge, Gray – 1950s
Stetson, Suede Finish, 3X, Brown – 1950s
Stetson, St. Regis, Homburg Model, Black – 1950s
Stetson, Straw, Saddle Roll – 1950s
Stetson, Bantam, Brown – 1950s
Stetson, Railbird, Dark Gray – 1950s
Stetson, Custon V, Carmel Brown – 1950s
Stetson, Forty, Tan – 1950s
Stetson, 3X, Mode Edge, Gray – 1950s
Stetson, Royal De Luxe, Back Bow, Brown – 1950s
Stetson, Nostalgia (First open crowned Stetson manufactured in 40 years, now discontinued), Black – 2009
Stetson Gift Boxes
One thing I am mighty tired of seeing on ebay is these little gift boxes identified as “salesman’s samples” or “advertising premiums.” In fact, these little hats that could fit in the palm of your hand were neither.
Mini Stetson hat and gift box, this one from about the 1950s
So, here is the deal with these miniature hats and boxes:
Let’s say a wife wanted to buy her husband a new hat. Well, we must realize that a hat is a very personal thing. It must be remembered that in those days a man’s hat was a statement he was making about himself. He’d have particular styles and fits he liked, others he assuredly did not like. If you are a sensible, discerning buyer you don’t just buy any ol’ hat and give it as a gift. The fact is, someone just can’t successfully buy a fitted hat for another person that he would truly like. A fitted hat is something that the potential wearer just has to pick for himself.
So, what this loving wife would do is go to the hat store and buy these little gift boxes with a mini hat in it. In that box would also be a gift certificate. Then, at the appointed time, the dutiful wife would give her man this little gift box for his present. The happy hubby would then take the gift certificate back to the hat store and redeem it for just the sort of hat he wanted, one fit to him personally by the store employees.
Smiles all around.
Now, after the hat was bought, these little hats and boxes would often go to the kids for them to play with or they would be thrown in a drawer to be forgotten or would even just be thrown out.
But the absolute fact is, these little hats and boxes had nothing at all to do with “salesman’s samples” or advertising. PERIOD!
You don’t even have to take my word for it. Take the word of the actual advertising of the era as your guide…
An advertising card showing the gift box and the little gift certificate that came in the box.
A print ad that was seen in magazines of the day talking about the mini hat gift set.
See what I mean? So stop calling them “advertising premiums” or “salesman’s samples,” will you ebayers? PLEASE!
A final word on this subject: This idea wasn’t just done by Stetson. Every large hat maker of the day had its own mini hat and box gift certificates. If you look at ebay long enough you’ll find them from Knox Hats, Dobbs Hats, Mallory Hats, and any number of other hat makers.
Stetson’s Named Models
One of Stetson’s sales tools starting in the late 30s or early 40s was to create marketing campaigns around cool sounding model names like the “Whippet,” the “Playboy,” the “Open Road,” or the “Stratoliner.” These named models were usually the lesser quality hats priced in the $10 or $12 range. This was a departure from the 1930s and earlier when almost all Stetson’s hats had model names.
By the late 30s, though, Stetson’s sales model changed with named models. Being that they were lesser quality, the named models were heavily advertised to get folks into the hat shop. Once in the shop, Stetson’s dealers were trained to try and upsell customers from the lesser quality named models to the higher price point hats that rarely had model names but were ranked in quality such as “De Luxe,” “Premier,” or “Twentyfive,” the latter being the price as well as the quality designation.
Still, because the branding is so great with the named model hats, the vintage fedora collectors love, love, love them. It doesn’t matter that these hats were the lesser of quality. The Whippet is especially prized by collectors and prices on the collector market have often reached towards the $450 mark for the larger sized hats. I have quite a few of the named models. Aside from the few you saw above, below are the more popular named models.
Stetson Flagship Models
Stetson, Flagship in Original box, Brown – 1940s
Stetson, Flagship, Tan – 1940s
Stetson Open Road Models
Stetson, 3X Open Road, Gray – 1940s
Stetson, Open Road, Tan – 1950s
Stetson, Stetson Open Road, Silverbelly, Converted With Brown Ribbon by Optimo, Chicago – 1990s
Stetson, Stetson Open Road, Silverbelly, Converted With Black Ribbon by Optimo, Chicago – 1990s
Stetson Playboy Models
Stetson, Playboy, Air Light–with air holes in crown, Gray – 1930s (this is a pretty rare hat)
Stetson, Playboy, Light Weight (With Crown Air Vent Holes) Black – 1940s
Stetson, Playboy, Vitafelt Gray – 1940s
Stetson, Playboy, Dove Gray – 1940s
Stetson Stetsonian Models
Stetson, Stetsonian, Tan – 1940s
Stetson, Stetsonian, Gray with Burgundy Ribbon and Edge Binding – 1940s
Stetson Stratoliner Models
Stetson, Stratoliner, Light Weight Felt, Gray – Late 30s, Early 40s
Stetson, Stratoliner, Vita Felt, Brown – 1940s
Stetson, Stratoliner, Premier, Dark Gray – 1940s
Stetson, Stratoliner De Luxe, Silverbelly – 1940s
Stetson, Stratoliner, Gray – 1950s
Stetson, Stratoliner. This is the 1940s model re-issued in 2011 by Stetson
One of the interesting things that set the Stratoliner apart from other hats was the narrow, oval shaped, silver box it came in (up until the 1950s).
Silver, Oval Stetson, Stratoliner Box (Note how hat brim is curled in box)
The shape of the box was so odd that Stetson felt the need to drop a little slip of paper into the box explaining why the box was so narrow instead of more round like the average hat box. These pieces of paper are very, very rare. And of COURSE I have one!
The Stratoliner also came in a normally shaped hat box.
Ultra rare Stratoliner rounded hat box (In all these years, this is the only example I’ve ever seen).
Stetson Whippet Models
From its introduction, the Stetson Whippet was one of the company’s most popular hat models. It wasn’t an expensive hat, never getting above $13, but it was quite popular. And who wouldn’t guess? Look at that classic style! In fact, the Stetson Whippet is the very picture of a fedora. Say “fedora” and this is what people think of. It is also one of the most collectible Stetson models. Collectors have been known to pay upwards to $500 for a larger sized Whippet. Even size 7 Whippets commonly get up to $200 and more.
Stetson, Whippet, Green – 1940s
Stetson, Whippet, Gray – 1940s
Stetson, Whippet, Dark Brown – 1940s
Stetson, Whippet, Blueish/Gray – 1940s
Stetson, Whippet, Gray – 1940s
Stetson, Whippet, Gray – Early 1950s
Stetson, Whippet, Dark Brown – Early 1950s
Stetson, Whippet, Gray with Brown-Gray Ribbon – 1950s
Stetson, Whippet, Brown – 1940s
Stetson, Whippet, Gray with Green Ribbon – 1940s
Stetson, Whippet, Gray – (OPS Tag) Made between 1951 and 1953
Stetson, Whippet, Dark Gray – 1950s
Stetson, Whippet, Black – 1950s
Stetson, Whippet, Tan – 1950s
Stetson, Whippet, Brown – Early 1940s (This had the brim cut down in 1960)
Stetson 25s, 7Xs, & 100s
The Stetson 100 was made of 100% beaver fur felt and was for many years Stetson’s absolute top of the line hat, costing a whopping $100 through the early 1960s. That was a ton of money when most hats were going for between $10 and $12. The 7X was also close to 100% Beaver and was also quite expensive ($75). The 25s were, of course, $25 and were also some of Stetsons best, most expensive hats.
Stetson 100, Open Road – Purchased Originally in 1951 (In its original gold paperboard presentation case)
Stetson 100, Open Road – Early 1950s (In its original Smasonite leather presentation case)
Stetson 100, Open Road – Late 50s or Early 1960s (In its original Smasonite leather presentation case)
Stetson, 7X, Clear Beaver, Fedora – 1950s
Stetson, 7X, Clear Beaver Open Road-Style – Late 40s or Early 1950s
Stetson, 7X, Clear Beaver, Open Road-Style, Embroidered “Last Drop” Liner – Mid 1950s
Stetson, Open Road Twentyfive, Silverbelly – 1950s
Stetson 25, Open Road – 1950s
Stetsons Made Under License in Foreign Countries
At times, Stetson also contracted out to foreign hat companies to make licensed Stetson hats outside the USA. Hatmakers in such countries as Germany, England, Canada, and Australia were awarded Stetson contracts over the years. I have a handful of foreign manufactured Stetsons, too.
Stetson, Zephyr Weight, Dark Gray – Made under contract in England – 1950s
Stetson, Premier, Carmel-Brown, Made under contract in Canada – 1950s
Stetson, Bantam, Forest Green, Made by Australian Hatmaker Akubra – 1950s
Other Stetson Hat Companies
Stetson’s No Name Hat Company
This was the hat co. started by the Stetson family concurrently with John B. Stetson’s own, more famous company. It was headed by John’s father and brother and John was also a principal in the company. I think it closed down in the late 1950s or the early 60s. So, even though the company wasn’t called Stetson, it was, indeed, a Stetson hat.
No Name Hat Company, Homburg, Dress Fedora, Gray – 1890s to 1910
No Name Hat Company, Bowler, Black – 1920s
Penn-Craft Hat Company, a Division of John B. Stetson
At this time I haven’t learned anything about Penn-Craft. I don’t know if Stetson just bought them out and continued the name for a while before shutting it down or what. I do know that Penn-Craft hats are far and few between.
Penn-Craft Hat Company, Fedora, Gray – 1930s
Penn-Craft Hat Company, Bowler, Black – 1920s
Ultra Rare Penn-Craft Hat Box – 1920s
Stephen L. Stetson
John B. Stetson’s little brother, Stephen, also started a hat company circa 1933. But when he tried to call it the “Stetson Hat Company,” big brother John wasn’t amused and sued little brother to make him change the name. So, Stephen ended up calling his company the “Stephen L. Stetson Hat Company,” but due to a court order had to make sure that every hat had a disclaimer that said his company was “never in any way connected” to his brother’s more famous hat company.
Stephen L. Stetson Hats Disclaimer on Box. This also appeared in the crown of every hat after the lawsuit.
Stephen L. Stetson Hats, Ten, Tan – 1940s
Stephen L. Stetson Hats, 20X Beaver, Tan – 1950s
Stephen L. Stetson Hats, Continental, Brown – 1950s
Now, the hat above is not really that remarkable. It is a typical, 1950s era short brim fedora with a back bow. Some may even call it a porkpie. Hats that look like this are a dime a dozen. It’s not unusual except for one feature. It has a Carter detachable sweatband. The detachable sweatband was held in by special metal buttons sewn into the hat. It was a short lived idea so they don’t appear on many existing examples. One of the problems with this sweatband system is that the metal buttons ended up deteriorating because of the sweat coming off the wearer’s head. In other cases the thread holding in the buttons fell apart and that, along with the buttons themselves corroding getting verdigris all over the inside of the hat, made the system undesirable and it wasn’t long before the Carter detachable sweatband system was eschewed by the hat making industry.
And now the other hat makers…
Akubra, Federation IV, Brown – 1990s (Indy Jones Fans Love This One)
Alexander, Pork Pie, Brown – 1960s
Biskup, Light Tan – 1920s
Bohm (German Maker), Gray – 1940s
Borsalino Pocket Hat (Crushable), in original cardboard box, Black – 1940s
Borsalino, Olive Green – 1950s
Champ, Melody 2-3/4, White, 1950s
Churchill Hats, Twentyfive, Tan, 1990s, in a Leather Churchill 100 Hard-Sided Hat Box, 1960s
Demon Hanover by Hoyt Hats, Brown – 1940s
Extremely Rare Demon Hanover Hat Box – 1940s
Dobbs, The Gay Prince, Heather Brown/Tan – 1950s
Dunlap, Lightweight, “The Wanderer”,Tan – 1950s
Embassy Hats, Wool, Made between 1931 and 1935 Under FDR’s New Deal NRA
Jay-Mor, Brown, Imperial Quality – 1940s
Knox, Brown/Gray, Twenty, Custom Edge – 1940s
Knox, Gray, Vagabond, Light Weight, casual – 1950s
Lee, Brown – 1930s
Lee, Lightweight, White – 1940s
Lee, Adventure, White – 1950s
Mallory, “Plastic Felt,” Tan – 1940s
Resistol, Gray – 1940s
Schenley, Wide Brimmed Homburg, Black – 1930s
Willoughby, Tuxedo II, Black – 1950s(?, earlier?) — A tuxedo hat is an alternative to a top hat when in formal wear. The interesting thing about a tuxedo hat is that the underbrim is covered in a layer of black silk. Very elegant. This one is of felt that is soft as a baby’s butt, too!
Panama Hat, Unknown Maker, 1920s
For those interested modern, custom hat makers, one of the best hat makers in the world is in Chicago. Optimo hats is a great hat maker, though pricey. There are other great hat makers, too. Art Fawcett at VS Hats is also a great maker and so is Falcon Park Hattery.
A 1950s Lee Hats Storage Trunk
This is an interesting storage trunk sold by Lee Hats in the 1950s.
Here is a vintage advertisement for that trunk.
And now some Top Hats…
Made by C.A. Avery of New York – Stove Pipe-Style – Made in the 1860s (Just like Lincoln would have worn)
D. Magee & Co., England – 1880s
Drake Hotel – 1860s
High Derby, Romeiser’s, Belleville, Illinois – 1890s
Other, Non-Stetson Cowboy hats…
Gambler by Ace (All Wool) – 1990s
Beaver Hats, Western – 1990s
Bradford Hats, Western (All Wool) – 1990s
Charlie One-Horse, Black – 1990s
Jack Daniel’s (All Wool) – 1990s
Preacher Hat (All Wool) – 1990s
Flying Cloud, Soft Civilian Hat, Black – 1930s
Charlie One-Horse, White – 1990s (In Original Box)
1870 U.S. Army Infantry Kepi
Model 1880 U.S. Army Infantry Dress Helmet – Made in 1900
Model 1889 U.S. Army Infantry Sun Helmet
Model 1902 U.S. Army Visor Cap
U.S. Army Campaign Hat Made by Stetson – May 14, 1910
This Artilleryman’s campaign hat is pretty interesting in that there is a stamp on the back of the sweatband that says the hat was made on May 14, 1910. Not too many hats have such definitive dating about them! This one is also a Stetson Clear Nutria felt hat with a “The Fray” Sweatband.
WWI U.S. Army Campaign Hat Made by Stetson – 1920s
WWII U.S. Army Campaign Hat Made by Stetson – 1940s
WWII U.S. Army Winter Enlistedman’s Cap With Rain Cover – 1940s
Leather Pilot’s Helmet, 1940s
Sanforized, Railroad Engineers Cap, 1940s
An actual Chinese Maoist worker’s cap. Made of the cheapest materials, but quite serviceable for what it’s for
Child’s Play Cowboy hat, 1950s or early 60s
When he was President, Lyndon Baines Johnson commissioned Resistol to make dozens of these hats that he’d give out at the White House to special visitors and supporters.
President Ronald Reagan was also known for wearing western hats. This one is marked on the sweatband that it was “Made by Stetson Especially for President Ronald Reagan.” It is likely that, like President Johnson, President Reagan gave these hats out to special visitors and supporters. This one is typical of 1980s Stetsons, so it is likely it was made during his presidency. The paper inventory tag has a revision date of 1983, so this hat was made between 1983 and 1988. A newer version of this hat is available at the Reagan Library.
I even have a Fez…
Don’t ask me why I have a fez, because I don’t know. Guess I just thought it looked cool. This fez was likely made in the 40s or 50s and is a real fez, not some costume junk.
… And Some Early 20th Century Driving Gear!
Man’s and Woman’s Linen Driving Caps, One Pair of Goggles, and Linen Road Duster, Between 1900 and 1920
Linen Driving Cap, Newsboy-Style, Between 1900 and 1920
Stetson, The Making of a Legend: Westerns
(Notice that all that fluffy stuff floating around is the actual fur. You’ll note that the “skin” of the animal is NOT used for hats. Just the fluffy fur which is matted together to make the hat body.)
Stetson, The Making of a Legend: Dress Hats
Stetson, The Making of a Legend: Newsboy-Styled Caps
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com, BigHollywood.com, and BigJournalism.com, as well as RightWingNews.com, RightPundits.com, CanadaFreePress.com, StoptheACLU.com, AmericanDaily.com, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.
For a full bio, please CLICK HERE.
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