So… What’s the Deal With Those Stetson Hats, Huston?

January 1, 2011 | Filed Under Fedora, Hat History, Stetson, Stetson Cowboy Hats, Warner Todd Huston | Comments Off on So… What’s the Deal With Those Stetson Hats, Huston?

-By Warner Todd Huston

Welcome searchers of history and information about men’s hats, fedoras, top hats, derbies and bowlers, and, more specifically, Stetson history. If you’ve landed on this page, chances are you found us through a Google search as our pages now rank on the very first page for most search questions on hat history. For that we are shocked and grateful.

One of the reasons you found us, though, is because information on hats is not just hard to find, it is very, very hard to find. But on these pages you’ll find much of what you need to know and resources to look elsewhere for other great info, too.

This first page is a visual walk through my always growing and changing hat collection. But before we get started, below is the full list of our hat info pages. Click on one of these if you want to go on to some very specific information.

A Glossary of Hat Terms, Words, Definitions, And Styles

All the hat terms you need to know to understand the world of hats and hat wearing.

Stetson Quality Designations, Just
What Do Those Xs Mean, Anyway?

Everyone wants to know what the heck Stetson means by those “genuine” Xs. Here we endeavor to answer that question.

Observations on Fedora Sweatbands,
Size Tags, and Fedora Dating Tips

Wherein we help you date your Stetson using the tags noted.

Dating Stetsons by Company Crests,
Stetson Logos and Hat Liners

Because the Stetson logo changed only a finite number of times, here you’ll find yet another way to help date your Stetson.

Dating Stetson Hats By Inventory Tag

These tags are another of the many ways to track down a date of a Stetson hat.

A Tour of My Collection of Antique Stetson Western Hats

This fascinating page has detailed photos of Stetson cowboy hat collection. These hats were made from the late 1800s, through the 1900s.

Now, on with my personal collection…

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 festooned with that big, heavy collection of lapel pins. 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.

But first, this in hat news…

Pharrell’s Crazy Grammy Hat

During the 2013 Grammy Awards, pop artist Pharrell Williams wore a hat that got everyone talking. It was an overgrown, bag-like affair that looked five times too large for his head. What was this hat many wondered?

Well, the hat was created by fashion maven Vivienne Westwood in the 1980s. It was the hat worn by the members of the 80s hip-hop group Malcolm McLaren and the World’s Famous Supreme Team in their 1982 video for the song “Buffalo Girls.”

OK, that being said, on with my collection…

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. Those aren’t fedoras. They are kitschy junk. Avoid them at all costs. Ironic hats are not cool.

Certainly, fedoras mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people and fedora styles are many and varied. 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. NO hat has the pelt or skin in it, folks!) 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 hats with brims at under 2-1/4–they are generally called “Trilbys” or stingy brim–and brims larger than 2-7/8 are usually more like cowboy hats than fedoras when they get that big. Now, I do have several western hats but am not “into” them if you know what I mean? Regardless, for sure I don’t do Trilbys or stingy brims. EVER!

As to date of manufacture, I am also not really a great fan of new, factory-made fedoras. I’d 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.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many speciality hat makers like Optimo Hats in Chicago. Nearly every state has at least one hatter that makes fine, new fedoras. You are usually talking a starting point of $300 and up with these folks. Some charge $600 to $700 for a new, custom made fedora.

I have been collecting hats for sometime, too. Finding out info about antique fedoras is not an easy task. All the people that ever knew about them on a daily basis are, after all, long dead. Further, since they were a momentary fashion item and styles changed with the season, there really isn’t “a” place to go to find out about fedora history and manufacturing information. On top of that every hat maker from back in the day is long, long out of business and all the manufacturing records of these companies have long since been destroyed. Even the Stetson family doesn’t make Stetsons any more as the family sold off the name in 1974 and stopped making hats.

So, the only way to piece together hat history is to study existing hats, catalogue advertisements and catalogs, find sparse info from original owners, and kibitz with other collectors and pool resources. It is a long, arduous process and even the most knowledgeable collectors will admit that there are great gaps in known, quantifiable info on hat history and manufacturing techniques.

And it doesn’t help that the hat makers themselves closely guarded their trade secrets and never made a habit of detailing too much to the public.

That is why I created these pages.

So that is that. Now, without further ado, here is my collection 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.

John B. Stetson, founder of Stetson Hats.

(As an aside, the Philly Historical Society has an interesting page on the Stetson Hat company. See it here).

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.

Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys!

We’ll start at the obvious place. Stetson’s famed cowboy hats…

Stetson, Clear Beaver, Kettle Curl Brim, Silverbelly – 1890 to 1915
This was Stetson’s most expensive hat at the time. 100 percent beaver and a rare surviving example of the clear beaver hat.

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, This one is in Stetson’s famous “Boss Of The Plains” style in Tan – 1894 to 1920

Stetson, No. 1 Quality, Silverbelly – 1900 to 1920s

Stetson, Nutria Felt, Brown – 1910s or 20s

Stetson Boss Raw Edge, Kettle Curl Brim, Brown – Between 1900 and 1920

Stetson Nutria, Kettle Curl Brim, Cream – Between 1900 and 1920 (The moths REALLY got to this one!)

Stetson Boss Raw Edge, Real Nutria, Kettle Curl Brim, Silverbelly – Late 1920s or Early 1930s

Stetson, Clear Nutria, Black – Late 20s or 1930s
This was a working cowboy’s hat that has two pins representing cattle brands. The LA was registered to E. I Whiting, St. Johns, AZ. The Rv registered to Virginia Webb, Soda Springs Ranch, Rimrock AZ.

Stetson, Boss Raw Edge, Clear Nutria, Tan – 1930s

Stetson, No. 1 Quality, White – 1930s

Stetson, 3 X Beaver Quality, Silverbelly – 1940s (Also from the same store in California s the two above)

Stetson No. 1 Quality, Kettle Curl Brim, Black – Late 1940s or Early 1950s

Stetson 30X El Patron, Silverbelly, 2000s (The original ribbon has been replaced with this brown, 1/2 version)

Stetson 100X El Presidente, Silverbelly, 2000s

Stetson 6X Carson, Silverbelly, With “Justified” TV Show Leather Hat Band, 2014

Click on the image above to read more about these great antique Stetson westerns.

Stetson derbies and top hats…

Stetson, Top Hat – Between 1900 and 1910

Stetson, Collapsible or Opera Top Hat – 1930s

Stetson, 1900 Paris Grand Prize Derby – 1900s to 1920s

Stetson, The Avenue, Derby, Black – 1920s

Stetson straws…

Stetson, Optimo-Style Panama – 1910s

Stetson, Straw Boater – 1930s

Stetson, Medalist, Panama Straw 1940s

Stetson, Premier, Panama Straw 1940s

Stetson, Straw, Saddle Roll – 1950s

Stetson, Genuine Milan Panama, – Made Between 1951 and 1953

Stetson, Genuine Panama – 1960s

Stetson, Stratoliner, Florentine Milan straw – 2013

Stetson fur felt fedoras…

Stetson Long Hair (or Plush), Black – 1920s

Stetson Long Hair (or Plush), Clear Nutria, Extra Light Weight, Black – 1920s

Stetson, The Avenue, Light Tan – 1920s

Stetson, Special, Twenty, Tan – 1920s

An interesting piece, probably a little boy’s hat or a woman’s hat, black, from the 1920s

Stetson, 1900 Grand Prize, Long Hair or Plusche, Brown – 1910s or 20s (Originally sold in Tampico, Mexico)

Stetson, Excellent Quality, Gray – 1930s

Stetson, Standard Quality, Crush Weight, Black – 1930s

This one is quite rare. It weighs less than a few ounces and has a cloth sweatband instead of a leather one. The reason for the cloth sweatband is twofold. One so that it can be folded and put in a coat pocket without destroying the stiffer leather sweatband, and two in order to make it even lighter.

Stetson, Stetsonian, Light Weight, Re-Enforced Edge, Gray – 1932

This one is probably one of the most rare Stetsons I have. Currently I only know of two others in existence. The “Re-Enforced edge” was Stetson’s answer to the Cavanagh edge from the Cavanagh hat company. Stetson patented it in 1932 but didn’t produce it for too long because it was an expensive process. But this one is also a “Light Weight,” which makes it even harder to find. Below are some more interior photos of this fine, rare hat from the 30s.

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, Turf Club, Brown – 1930s

Stetson, Standard Quality, Brown (This one sold right at Stetson’s Philadelphia Shop) – 1930s

Stetson, The Madison, Khaki – 1940s

Stetson, Three-Way, Medalist – 1941-42 (I guess they just didn’t make many, but this is a rare model)

Stetson, Three-Way – 1941 (Even Rarer cloth sweatband model–sold this one, haven’t seen another since)

Stetson, Three-Way Box (Actor Bob Benchley was the spokesman for this model)

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, Casual, Gray in a style emulating the Dobb’s Gay Prince Model – 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, Imperial, 3X, Mode Edge, Vita Felt, Gray – Early 1940s

Stetson, The Spectator, Gray – 1940s (This one is also a rare model. In fact, it’s the only one I’ve ever seen in person!)

Stetson, Diplomat, Brown w/Reddish Brown ribbon – 1940s

Stetson, Royal De Luxe, Tan/Cream – 1940s

Stetson, Zephyr Weight, Hunter Green – 1940s

Stetson, Vogue, Dark Brown – 1940s

Stetson, Sovereign, Twenty, Mode Edge, Brown – Made Between 1951 and 1953

Stetson, 3X, Sixteen Fifty, Long Hair (or Plushe) Mode Edge, Gray – 1950s

Stetson, Suede Finish, 3X, Brown – Late 1940s or Early 1950s

Stetson, St. Regis, Homburg Model, Black – 1950s

Stetson, Turf Club (pretty rare model), All Gray – 1950s

Stetson, Muskateer, Green – 1950s (This one is somewhat rare. Only a few seem to be still around. Collectors have seen less than half a dozen.)

Stetson, Bantam, Brown – 1950s

Stetson, Railbird, Dark Gray – 1950s

Stetson, Custom V, Carmel Brown – 1950s

Stetson, Forty, Tan – 1950s

Stetson, 3X, Mode Edge, Gray – 1950s

Stetson, 3X (With embroidered “Last Drop” liner), White – 1950s

Stetson, Sovereign, Gray, Twenty-Lite – 1950s

Stetson, 3X, White – Late 1950s or Early 1960s

For some reason, white Stetson fedoras are far and few between. This one is in pristine condition missing only the size tag. It is a 3X but finished in a Whippet style.

Stetson, 5X, Open Road Style, White – 1960s

Stetson, Nostalgia (First open crowned Stetson manufactured in 40 years, now discontinued), Black – 2009 (I have since sold this, but am leaving this entry up for information’s sake.)

Stetson, Langhorne, Black – 2015
This bowler-like hat was made under special contract with Stetson for the band Langhorne Slim and the Law. Only 300 were made.

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 reality, 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 poster that appeared in hat stores to remind customers of the gift box.

A print ad that was seen in magazines of the day talking about the mini hat gift set.

I mean think about this logically, won’t you? A true “salesman’s sample” is a tiny manufactured item that is supposed to be an almost exact copy of its larger cousin. Do ANY of these cheap felts or molded plastic mini hats ever really look ANYTHING like a REAL hat? Nope. Not at all. So these things couldn’t possibly be proper “salesman samples.” They would fail miserably to entice a sale from a retailer, after all.

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.

Here, for instance, is an example of a store display made by Adam Hat Company showing what these hats were really for.

A stand up counter-display to urge customers to buy a hat gift certificate for a loved one.

Now, there was a time when door-to-door salesmen would carry these little hats and boxes around to sell. But that still doesn’t make these a proper “salesman’s sample.” You see, the door-to-door salesmen could not carry 100 different, full-sized hats in 10 different sizes with them door-to-door, it must be realized. So, what these salesmen were doing is selling the gift boxed novelty hat with a “sold” certificate. Then the hat buyer would take the certificate to the hat store and get fitted for the hat they bought from the salesman.

Finally, I found one…

After years of hunting, I actually found a little gift box set still with its original gift certificate, one that was never cashed in. Very, very few gift certificates exist because, naturally, most people would redeem them for a hat so they were used and destroyed.

This one is a Resistol hat gift box set (wish it was a Stetson, but, these are so ultra rare you takes what you can gets). It is from 1963 and the certificate is made out from “Joy” to “Daddy” and purchased at “Bell’s Men’s Shop.” I’ve no idea where Bell’s was as there is no address on the thing, but where ever it was “Daddy” never cashed in his gift certificate leaving it to posterity so that we can see an actual gift box set with its un-redeemed gift certificate still inside. This is very rare, indeed.

So, I also just found one from Stetson, though it is a fairly modern one.This one is probably from the 1990s or so.

So, do you see what I mean, folks? Do stop calling them “advertising premiums” or “salesman’s samples,” will you ebayers? PLEASE? I’m BEGGING ya!

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, Flagship, Gold Medal Dark Brown – 1950s

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 – Vita-Felt – Blue – Early 1940s

Stetson, Stetsonian, Tan – 1940s

Stetson, Stetsonian, Gray with Burgundy Ribbon and Edge Binding – 1940s

Stetson, Stetsonian, Brown with Brown Ribbon and Edge Binding – 2013 – This is the new, re-issue of the classic style. It is a very impressive piece and good on Stetson Hats for going back to the old styles.

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, Black w/Red Brim Edge and Ribbon – 1950s

Stetson, Stratoliner, Black. This is the 1940s model name as re-issued by Stetson in 2011. In 2014 Stetson also came out with a much nicer Premier model Strat. (I have since sold this but am leaving the photo here for the sake of information)

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, Vita Felt, Whippet, Gray – Early 1940s
(This one is somewhat rare being a vita felt model as well as an over welt brim edge instead of the ribbon bound edge like most Whippets. This is the earliest Whippet in my collection.)

Stetson, Whippet, Gray – 1940s (This one is a bit rare in that the brim binding is 1/8 inch on top and 1/2 inch underneath the brim. This is typical of some hat styles in the early 40s.The name “Whippet” is imprinted on the leather sweatband on this one, too.)

Stetson, Whippet, Green – 1940s

Stetson, Whippet, Gray – 1940s

Stetson, Whippet, Dark Brown – 1940s

Stetson, Whippet, Blueish/Gray – 1940s

Stetson, Whippet, Gray – 1940s

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, Brown – Early 1950s

Stetson, Whippet, Dark Gray – 1950s

Stetson, Whippet, Black – 1950s

Stetson, Whippet, Tan – 1950s

Stetson, Whippet, Gray with light brim binding – 1950s

Stetson, Whippet, Brown – Early 1940s (Unfortunately, this had the brim cut down in the early 1960s to better fit the 60s short brim style.)

Stetson 25s, 7Xs, & 100s

The Stetson 100 was made of 100% beaver fur felt–all from the best part of the animal, the belly section of the beaver–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 probably 100% Beaver–though not from the belly section–and was also quite expensive ($50 to $75 depending on the model). The 25s were, of course, $25 and were still some of Stetsons best, most expensive hats.

Stetson 100, Silverbelly colored Open Road – Purchased Originally in 1951 (In its original gold paperboard presentation case)

Stetson 100, Silverbelly colored Open Road – Early 1950s (In its original Samsonite leather presentation case)

Stetson 100, Silverbelly colored Open Road – Late 50s or Early 1960s (In its original Samsonite leather presentation case)

Stetson 100, in a rare Gray, Fedora, Mode Edge Brim – Late 50s (In a white interior hard-sided trunk)

Stetson, 7X, Clear Beaver, Fedora – 1950s

Stetson, 7X, Clear Beaver Open Road-Style – Late 40s or Early 1950s

Stetson, 7X, Clear Beaver Fedora in a rare chocolate brown color – 1950s

This rare chocolate brown 7X fedora was made by the Stetson factory a a gift to a retiring Stetson employee (see inscription above).

Stetson, 7X, Clear Beaver Open Road-Style – Late 1950s

Stetson, 7X Clear Beaver, Beaver 50 – 1960s

Stetson, Open Road Twentyfive, Silverbelly – 1950s

Stetson 25, Open Road – 1960s

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 Australia, Canada, England,Germany, Mexico, and Japan were awarded Stetson contracts over the years. I have a handful of foreign manufactured Stetsons, too.

Stetson, Bantam, Forest Green, Made by Australian Hatmaker Akubra – 1950s

Stetson, Royal, Light Gray, Made under contract in Canada – 1950s

Stetson, Zephyr Weight, Dark Gray – Made under contract in England – 1950s

Stetson, 3X Quality, Gray-Green, Made under contract in Deutschland (Germany) – 1950s

Stetson, Premier, Black, Made under contract in Japan – 1950s

Stetson, Matsuya, Gray-Green, Made under contract in Japan – 1950s

Stetson, Super Quality, Black, Made under contract in Mexico – 1920s

Other Stetson Hat Companies

Stetson’s Chamois Hat Company

The Chamois hat company appears to have been bought up by Stetson in the late 1800s and Stetson made the hat brand without putting its own name on it at all. But a look at the inventory stickers behind the sweatband inside the hat will show those used by Stetson in its own named hats. The Chamois name appears in Stetson ads and pricing documents between the late 1800s and up to about 1925 or so then it seems that Stetson discontinued the line. These hats are few and far between.

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

No Name Hat Company, Bowler, Black – 1920s or 30s

Penn-Craft Hat Company, a Division of John B. Stetson

At this time I haven’t learned much 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, especially the company’s fedora models. Some say that the company was connected to the religious Penn Craft community farm that was founded in 1937, but I doubt that because the hat company name was trademarked in 1935, several years before the community was founded. Additionally, the community was situated many miles from Philadelphia where the hat company operated, so it is hard to see how the hat company could be connected to the community since they were almost on the opposite sides of Pennsylvania.

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…

Adam Hats, “Romabout,” (sold open crown) Dove Gray – 1940s

Adam Hats, “Clayton,” (sold with a preformed “C” crown) Tan – Late 1950s

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, Beaver “100” Made With Vicuna, Brown, 1950s or 60s – Housed in original hard-sided, leather trunk (A very hard to find hat, this one)

Demon Hanover by Hoyt Hats, Brown – 1940s

Extremely Rare Demon Hanover Hat Box – 1940s

Disney, Brown, Station Wagon – 1950s

Dobbs, Supreme Light Weight, White – 1920s 30s

Dobbs, Hankachif Felt (a rare super lightweight hat), Brown – 1950s

Dunlap, Lightweight, “The Wanderer”,Tan – 1950s

Embassy Hats, Wool, Made between 1931 and 1935 Under FDR’s New Deal NRA

Huckel (Made in Western Germany), Gray, Plush, Back Bow – 1940s

Knox, Black, Derby – 1910s (The inset photo of is of Admiral Dewey wearing a similar squared derby in 1912.)

Knox, Black, Silk Plush Women’s Hat – 1920s (From about 1890 to 1930 women wore these hats in business or professional situations that didn’t call for fancy or showy hats. Women wore these to daytime charity events, work, or formal business occasions. This one was owned by a woman in 1923 according to the tag that came with the hat.)

Knox,Tom ‘N’ Jerry – 1950s (This one has a spiral stitched brim)

Knox, Tan, 100 – 1950s (Knox 100s are rare as hen’s teeth!)

Knox, Brown, Hallmark – 1960s

Lee, Brown – 1930s

Lee, Lightweight, White – 1940s

Lee, Adventure, White – 1950s

Lee, All American, Black – 1950s

Mallory, “Ten,” Tan – 1940s (This is either just before Stetson bought out Mallory or early afterward)

Mallory, “Plastic Felt,” Tan – 1940s (This was made by the Stetson company which had bought out Mallory Hats)

Resistol 350, “A Touch Of Mink,” Silverbelly (This hat was a $350 hat in the 60s and came with the hard-sided trunk in the photo) – 1960s

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!

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…

Before we get into these toppers, I’d like to note that there are very, very few top hats made of beaver left out there in the world. Hatters stopped using beaver for toppers long before the civil war (which started in 1860) and hats that are still around from before the civil war are rarer than hen’s teeth… that means they are nearly non-existent. The truth is almost every vintage black, furry top hat in existence today is made of silk plush, not beaver. (Read about the manufacturing process HERE). So, when you see ebayers trying to sell you a “beaver skin top hat” write them a note and tell them they don’t know what they are talking about, won’t you? And DON’T go around calling your top hat a “beaver” top hat. It just ISN’T!

Also, on the “skin” point I just said above. NO TOP HAT HAS BEAVER SKIN IN IT! Yes, I’m yelling because too many idiot ebayers call their hats “beaver skin.” No hat, not fedoras, not top hats, not bowlers, ever had any “beaver skin” in them. Only the hair is used for fur felt. Unless it is a hat made in the old trapper style like Daniel Boone wore, there’s NO SKIN!

On the other hand, some brand new made top hats are beaver because few hat makers have the ability to make the silk plush the way it used to be made, so beaver is an easier–though expensive–material to use for hatters today.That is why new-made top hats are often so danged expensive.

Extra Wide Brim Top Hat, Maker Unknown – Made in the 1850s

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

The inside label on the 1850s/60s top hat reads Robert Somers & Co., Portland Maine. The box it came in is an old pasteboard type, factory painted white. On the cover is a difficult to read label stating in ink the hat was for “H.P. Webber, 179 Fore St., City” (probably Portland) plus the Somers company name.

For a short time between about 1890 and 1900 derbies and bowlers reached heights close to that of top hats. These old hats are pretty rare. I have three of them in my collection.

High Derby, Romeiser’s, Belleville, Illinois – 1890s

High Derby, Richardson and Emerson – 1890s (Note height with comparison photo at bottom with R&E hat to the right of a standard 1930s Stetson derby)

Western Hats, Tall Derby – 1890 – 1910 (This straight-sided, flat-brimmed style of derby was only in style for a very short time and versions of this style are very rare.)

Knox Cambridge Bowler – 1890 – 1920 (Speaking of rare, this style, often worn by such luminaries as Winston Churchill and America’s Admiral George Dewey, is very rare, indeed. Very few originals like this still exist today. Below you can see the hat in action in a photo of Dewey from 1912 and a photo of Winston Churchill.)

Other, Non-Stetson Cowboy hats…

Gambler by Ace (All Wool) – 1990s

Beaver Hats, Western – 2000s

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)

Military Headgear…

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

This is a Civil War Veteran’s Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) hat from about the 1920s or so.

Miscellaneous Hats

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

How Australia’s Famed Akubra Hats are Made

Well, this one is in German, but it still shows the process pretty well.

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Follow Warner Todd Huston on:

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,, and, as well as,,,, among many, many others. Huston has also appeared on Fox News, Fox Business Network, CNN, and many local TV shows as well as numerous talk radio shows throughout the country.

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