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General Information => General Discussion => Topic started by: cigar joe on August 17, 2008, 10:35:11 PM

Title: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on August 17, 2008, 10:35:11 PM
by Cigar Joe  WA(Western Aficionado) OoL (Order of Leone)

In  this treatise we here on the Leone Board are going to examine the different styles of Western hats that are found captured in historical photographs, depicted in historical prints and sketches, rendered by contemporary artists and then juxtapose those images against the “cowboy hat” depicted in genre of film and television we call Westerns from 1903’s “Great Train Robbery” to the present.

I believe one of the reasons that many of today’s Westerns seem a bit off is there is an over emphasis with authenticity which places them more in a historical costume drama genre rather than a true Western. That misguided authenticity removes them from the fictional Mythic West that golden age mythology that was created in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s with the late 50’s to late 60’s being the high water mark.

The catalyst for this treatise is the trend that seemingly started in the 1980’s and continues in the current crop of made for TV Westerns that feature what seems to me these overly exaggerated “ten gallon” style cowboy hats with very wide brims and very high crowns harking back to the Tom Mix William S. Hart  period of Western films.

Historically suffice it to say there was no single style of hat for the folks that lived beyond the civilization on the American frontier.. From about 1680 through the end of the eighteenth century, the cocked hat reigned supreme as the most popular American hat and it was worn either in the French or British style. The carriage hat was popular between 1780 and 1820 and the longhunter  with a low 3 1/2 inch-round crown- with a four-inch wide brim is the first hat that begins to resemble what we think of as a cowboy hat., By the time of the Civil War a wide variety of headwear became available to the general public.

Here are for reference great examples of period hats from The Clearwater Hat Company:

The Tall Beehive


Low Beehive


These two were cheap cost cutting hats made during the Civil War their upturned brims were the result of quick manufacture.

The Derby


The General Lee


From a style worn by General Lee.

The Gettysburg


A style from various photos taken at Gettysburg

The High Rider


The John Bull


The Mosby


The Panama


The Plantation


The Narrow Plantation


The Shiloh from images American Civil War Shiloh battlefield.


The Slouch hat


The Slouch Anteitam


Now I think we'd all agree that of these period hats the Tall Beehive, The General Lee, The Gettysburg, The High Rider, The Mosby, The Panama, The two Plantations, The Shiloh,  The Slouch,  and The Slouch Antietam, all with some personal modifications could pass for what we call "Cowboy Hats"

In the following posts I'll add images from historical sources and Western Film and we will continue the discussion

Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on August 18, 2008, 06:22:08 AM
For a jump off point lets use the California Gold Rush of 1849


Here is a picture of prospectors working a sluice box circa 1850's

Man #1 a free black man (California was admitted to the Union in 1850 as a free state), he looks as if he has either a slouch, Gettysburg, mosby or john bull hat. Notice also that his shirt has a definite collar and he's wearing his boots "Texican Style" (with his pants tucked into them).

Man #2 looks like he is wearing a plantation hat with a flat crown. He's got the classic bib front shirt with a collar and also boots in the "Texican Style."

Man#3 another free black man with possibly a  straw Panama Hat, smoking a clay pipe shirt with a collar and again boots "Texican Style."

Man #4 on wagon wearing possibly a tall beehive hat, a collared shirt and possibly a bandanna, he has a vest also and his boots are also "Texican Style."

Another point to notice and to keep in mind is how they are wearing their hats. In the manner they are posed any breeze or gust of wind would blow them off their heads, its obvious that under the direction of the photographer they were told to tip them back so that their faces would not be in shadow.

I've had arguments with some reenactor morons who insist that that is the way they wore them cause that is the way they were photographed. In future pictures, in this thread where people were caught in candid poses you'll notice the difference.


This is an illustration from the Illustrated News Fed 3, 1853

This prospectors hat is either a top hat, a  john bull or a high rider style could possibly even be a carriage hat (see Clearwater Hat Company link, hes carring a revoler, a rifle, and a knife tucked in his boots again worn Texican Style , lol, I guess a boot knife wouldn't be any use if worn with the pants over the boot. He is also depicted with a vest and it looks like his shirt has a collar peeking out.


This illustration is from Harper's Weekly 1857

Man 1 looks like he's wearing a pork pie or plug hat. Man 2 a short beehive, Man 3 a Panama, gamblers 4 stovepipe top hats, 5 a tall beeghive, 6 looks like what is reffered to as a longhunter, 7 looks like the only sombrero, 8 looks like a deformed slouch, 9 another pork pie, 10 a tall beehive with a crushed crown he's also got a noticeable collar, 11 and 12 also look like beehives, 13 has a turned up side brim with a flat crown possibly a Plantaion style and 14 is similar but with the front brim folded towards the crown these two look like "Cowboy hats".


A 49er with a wide brim plantation stlye hat again worn way back on his head as per the photographers instructons.
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: dave jenkins on August 18, 2008, 02:13:46 PM
Great post, Joe. And I love the Order of Leone concept. How does one get the award?
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: T.H. on August 18, 2008, 02:23:24 PM
Excellent thread, Joe. I can't wait for your next post, this is incredibly interesting and original.
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on August 18, 2008, 06:17:18 PM
Order of Leone, just made it up,  we are all members  O0
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on August 18, 2008, 07:23:03 PM

Another trio of placer miners, Miner 1 has what looks like a slouch hat with a side crease in the crown. Miners 2 & 3 both have what look like wide brim panamas miner 2 has suspenders.

Lets jump up to the 1860's with the Civil War raging in the East and trans Mississippi West.


Here is Gen. William Tecumse Sherman wearing a Slouch Hat , notice its low over his eyes and not tipped back


And US Grant with the same style Slouch Hat though it looks as if his crown is flattened,  Grant has his tipped back a bit on his head in this Matthew Brady image.


Here we have Alan Pinkerton on the left wearing a derby, Lincoln in the center with his trademark Stovepipe, and the officer on the right in what looks like a Hardee hat without one side being cocked up by a badge as seen in example below also looks like the only decoration he has is the gold cord again see the example below:


No Doubt there were countless kepi's worn by veterans of both North & South after the war and we'll keep an eye out for them as we continue. We will retun to the military during the Indian Wars.
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on August 19, 2008, 09:33:46 PM
Post War Period thousands of Civil War veterans both North & South along with Irish immigrants stream West to work on the Union Pacific Rail Road one of the great engineering feats in American History.


Left to right man 1 tipped back plantaion possibly, man 2 a Confederate vet by his pants wearing a straw Panana, man 3 a Union vet wearing a tall beehive with a creased crown, man 4 looks like another tall beehive, man 5 in what looks like a plug hat (see below), man 6 in a derby, man 7 with a slouch hat, and black man 8 in a shiloh.


Here below is a group of UPRR workers and the paymasters car at Promomtory Point Utah 1869.


Hats by number, 1 Panama, 2 Plug, 3 Panama with a "cowboy" crease, 4 Wheel Cap (see below), 5 Kepi or Forage cap, 6 Slouch, 7 Long Hunter, 8 Slouch, 9 Tall Beehive, 10 11 12 13 14 15 Slouches (10 & 11 with "cowboy" crease), 16 flat brimmed Shiloh 17 Tall beehive, 18 Mechanics Cap (see below), 19 20 Slouch Hats, 21 Tall beehive and note bene this guy is actually smiling a rarity in these old photos, 22 Tall Beehive , 23 "cowboy" creased Slouch, 24 Plantaion, 25 A "cowboy" creased Slouch very cowboy looking,  26 Plantation, 27 Black man with a Shiloh, 28 Slouch, 29 Possible plantation with front brim folded up, 30 Hrdee, 31 32 Plantation, 33 Slouch, 34 Plugg, 35 Shiloh, 36 Slouch. 37 Plugg, 38 Plantation, 39 Plugg, 40 Mechanics Cap, 41 & 42 Slouch (42 with "cowboy" crease).

Wheel Cap


Mechanics Cap


Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on August 20, 2008, 08:11:35 AM
Ok we'll look now at images of the classic period of the American West from the end of the Civil War to the turn of the century. John B. Stetson created the first "Cowboy " hat in 1865 it was called the "Boss of the Plains". In the year 1872, Montgomery Ward Catalog offered rural America opportunities to buy store-bought clothing for the working class. The catalog offered only one broad-brimmed hat, the farmer-type “Men’s Panama Hat.”

Four years later, in 1878, Ward offered a new line, the “Men’s Planter’s Hat.” These plain hats were broad-brimmed with a round, slightly shaped crown, much like today’s finished but unshaped cowboy hat. Toward the end of the 1800s, after seeing the popularity of various self-shaped styles, Stetson began producing various pre-shaped styles. Other companies began offering cowboy hats, but the Stetson remained the capstone. In 1883, Montgomery Ward offered a selection of cowboy hats.


Here we have Harpers Weekly 1871 illustration of a group of wagon train guides,. Black man 1 has a sraw Panama hat  and a shirt with a collar & is off to go fishing, man 2 the fiddler has what looks like a slouch, man 3 a wide brimmed plantation, man 4 has a creased brim plug hat and a shirt with a definite collar, man 5 a mountain man's fur hat, man 6 a slouch, man 7 possibly a front creased Stetson.


Below we have a detail of Frederick Remmington illustration 1888 Harpers of the end of the trail man standing probably has either a Stetson or the "Texan Chief Cowboy Mexican Sombrero Hat " quite a mouthful, lol. The mounted cowboy has either a flat brimmed plantation or flat brimmed Stetson.

Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on August 20, 2008, 08:51:21 AM
Here is a group (below) of citizens of Marysville Montana sometime in the 1880's, From left to right, man 1 & 2 look like slouch hats, man 3 has possibly a Stetson with a "cowboy" crease, man 4 another slouch, 5 has a cap, 6 & 7 machinist caps, 8 & 9 may be slouches, 10  & 11  Stetsons , 12 a derby, 13 a Stetson, 14 a slouch possibly, 15 a Stetson with a "Montana peak", 16 a slouch, 17 & 18  Stetsons, 19 & 20 possible slouches. Note bene that this photo though posed is a bit more natural in appearance. Men 3-9-15-17-21-23 & 24 are wearing theirs low on the forehead shading their eyes.


Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: Cusser on August 20, 2008, 11:31:27 AM
Great thread.  Hats off to you !!!
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on August 22, 2008, 06:22:33 AM
On a breezy summers day in the 1880's in the boom town of Tombstone Arizona, a crowd of locals gather around a rope arena at the edge of town to watch a cock fight, the roosters have just been released and a plume of dust wafts up from their initial contact. It may have taken place outside of one of the local bordellos and we see some of the girls are in the crowd while the madam looks on from the doorway in the background.

The image below is originally from the Arizona Historical Society from a Time Life book "The Gunfighters" its a totally candid photo of a cock fight in 1880's Tombstone Arizona. Its one of my favorite images because it shows a slice of candid life & how hats were worn and the various styles in the natural environment of the Old West:


We see a crowd gathered around a roped off arena.

So lets examine it closely and see what i can tell us. Starting from left man 1 & 2 look like they are wearing stetsons, man 2 has his pants over his boots.

Man 3 is wearing his hat with flat crown and a straight brim (Gaucho Style) very similar to Mortimer in For A Few Dollars More & Frank in Once Upon A Time In The West, man 4 a Man With No Name type slouch, man 5 has a Stetson ( Mongomery Ward - MW), man 6 has a sombrero and is wearing a bandanna, man 7 a Stetson or MW, man 8 a sombrero and a bandanna, man 9  he has that flat crowned flat brimmed Gaucho style had similar to man 3.  Man 10 is again similar to man 9, man 11 a narrower brimmed Man With No Name slouch.

# 12 is a lady with a straw hat, man 13 has a derby, man 14 looks like he has a Stetson or MW. Man 15 one of the rooster owners has a sombrero he wears is pants over his boots. Man 16 has either a Plantation or Stetson - MW and he is the first we see that has his hat pushed back on his head naturally he looks like he's also got a bandanna.

# 17 is our second female watching the spectacle. Man 18 has a straw boater with a wide brim its a bit more clearer in the book the center binding area is a bit blurred by the scan. Man 19 has a Stetson-MW and the man to his left has one also, to that mans left is our third female spectator who is blurred in the scan.

Man 20 has what looks like straw top hat , Lady 21 the possible "Madam" lounges in the doorway of a bordello. Man 22 has on either a Stetson or MW. Man 23 who is one of the contests two judges wears a derby,  and man 24 a straw Panama or a boater.

Lady 25 is interesting,  she looks like a real sport, she has a nice hourglass figure she's standing high up on something so that she can ge a good view of the fight. She's holding on to her fancy bonnet with both hands so that the breeze doesn't blow it off her head. Now just below her is what looks like a man with a shotgun over his shoulder, could it be one of the Earps? or sheriff Johnny Behan or one of his deputies keep order at the fight? Interesting.

Man 26 is our second judge, he's got some type of big white cravat on. 27 is another female to her left looks like another female turned to the left. between them is a little girl at the rope and a boy to her right, Men 28,29,  30 and 31 all look like they are wearing either Stetsons or MW's. 32 has a flat brimmed round crowned hat ( like in film Tombstone 1993).

Man 33 is the other owner of one of the roosters he's got a tall crowned sombrero. Man 34 has a flat brimmed Stetson or MW, man 35 has a straw boater,  man 36 has a narrower brimmed Man with No Name slouch. Man 37 has a sombrero. 38 is a Stetson or a MW. 39 looks like another slouch, 40 a possible straw boater, 41 42 & 43  Stetsons or MW's.

Man 44 is the first in the entire crowd that you can see has a definite "cowboy crease" almost everyone else (though 19 & 22 may also have creases)  is wearing for all intents and purposes flat brims. 45 looks like a Panama, 46 has a Stetson or MW, and just to his left is another female looking at him.

Man 48 has a slight "cowboy crease" in his slouch hat. 49 looks like a tall beehive.

Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: Groggy on August 22, 2008, 12:34:06 PM
The black Hardee Hat you show above was worn (not exclusively, but most notably) by the Union Iron Brigade (1st Brigade, 1st Division, I Corps, Army of the Potomac) which fought at Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. It was their distinctive trademark.

Great thread CJ, you're doing a valuable service through your research. Keep it up. O0
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on August 23, 2008, 07:34:12 AM
Another candid photo from Magdalena, New Mexico "Trails End Pens" 1887.


Man 1 a Stetson or MW, man 2 a slouch with a definite "cowboy" crease. Man 3 a Stetson or MW, man 4 a round crown slouch with a "cowboy" crease, man 5 has a flat toped flat crowed "Gaucho" style hat. Man 6 a creased crown and a rolled up "cowboy" creased at the sides brim.  Man 7 has a Stetson or MW with a creased crown and slightly creased brim. Man 8 a round crown slouch, and man 9 a Stetson or MW with a top crease.


A Saloon in Kelly New Mexico circa 1886 (a Joseph E. Smith Photo) man 1. on horseback a flat crowned slouch, man 2 and 3  a flat brim creased crown slouch man 2 has a 4 crease crown reminiscent of Army Spanish American War campaign style hats also called the "Montana Peak", man 4 a round crown flat brimmed slouch. Man 6 has a Stetson or MW cowboy sombrero (a definite  early John Wayne/Hoss Cartwright style  hat, lol). Man 7 has a slouch with a "cowboy" crease. Kid 8 has a cheap short beehive from the looks of the turned up brim. Man 9 has a creased crown slouch note bene that under his left hand are two reflections of light possibly the only man wearing a revolver. Water trough has a cast iron pump
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on August 24, 2008, 08:09:30 AM
Lets backrack to the post civil war military 

Below we have a sergeant wearing a well worn top creased slouch with gold cord decoration.
This is at the Ft. Leavenworth arsenal in 1867. Behind him above his head are two spectators
the one on the left wearing a plug hat the one on the right possibly a tall beehive.


Below we have an example of a Plainsman, which was known in the Old Northwest
(East of the Mississippi) from the around the Revolution as a Longhunter.


This style is probably most famous from an image of Wild Bill Hickcok who sports one.
Below is another infamous character of the old west sporting one whether or not he wore it a Little Bighorn I don't know


George Armstrong Custer wearing his plainsman with flattened center creased crown.

Below is a sketch in the field on the frontier by Frederic Remington of cavalry officer Lt. Carter P. Johnson during the
Geronimo Campaign he has a wide brimmed Stetson ,  note the checkered bandanna, the leather gaiters & leather gloves


Below is an example of a cavalry officer circa 1890 wearing a slouch
not much different from the Ft. Leavenwoth image of 1867, though you'll
notice there is no gold cord braid on his and he has both a center crease and two side creases.

Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: Groggy on August 25, 2008, 07:01:09 AM
Found this painting of the Iron Brigade previously mentioned. They're clearly sporting the Hardee hat mentioned by CJ:

Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on August 28, 2008, 07:28:08 AM
Ok lets next examine the difference between images Posed vs Candid vs Action.

The vast majority of historic photographic images of the West are posed shots, especially those of individuals, rarer are the Candid images of everyday life,  action shots are pretty much non existant as photos, many of Western photo images of town streets contain action ghosts or at best blurred areas where a rider or wagon passed through the scene.

For action scenes most of images are from artists and illustartors.


This is a good example of a typical posed image of a group of cattle rustlers in New Mexico who in the 1870's sat for their portrait, its from Time-Life's book "The Outlaws". Look at their teetering hats, perched far back on their noggins, nobody outdoors whould ever wear them like that. A light breeze would blow them off, just riding at a a trot on a horse would also.

Obviously the photographer posed them that way. The man on the right has either a Stetson or MW (Montgomery Ward) hat, from the wide brim and the tall crown. In his hand is a long barrel at least (7 inch) Remington revolver,  the man in the center may also be sporting a Stetson or MW, he has a definite flat crown and a wide hat band either of ribbon or leather. His hand is on the walnut stock of a Winchester he has a plaid shirt with a definite collar. Man on right has a narrower brimmed hat its not a Stetson or MW it could possibly be a slouch, but from that posed angle we can't really make a determination. This man also has a long barrel Remington. His shirt has no collar. None of them is wearing a bandana. I cropped off the bottom of the image for posting,  but I can tell you they are all wearing their boots Texican style, pants tucked in.


Here is a detail of a possed photo of Jesse James and his gang, the detail is just of Jesse, it is taken in the field, ouside of one of their Missouri cave hideouts circa the 1870's. It show how confident Jesse was in his own back yard audacious enough to have a photographer take the gangs photo.

Jesse has on a wide brimmed hat its tipped way back on his head as are the hats of the rest of the gang as directed by the photographer. Whether his hat is a plainsman or a Stetson/MW can't be determined. His pullover three button shirt has a collar, he's wearing a small cravat,  his left arm is leaning against the barrel of a Winchester possibly a 73 model.  Around his waste he wears a cartridge belt for the Winchester and a gun holster/belt with cartridges for his revolver. He looks like he has cordroy pants, only Jesse of the group has his boots Texican style, all the others have their pants over their boots. None of the rest of the gang have bandanas but all have Winchesters & revolvers.

Here is a shot that captures a moment of local intrigue. Flanked by grim Cadwell, Kansas townfolk, ex Marshal Henry Brown 6. &  Deputy 8. share leg shackles while two accomplices 9 & 13 share handcuffs. They were caught trying to rob the town bank in 1884. Brown was shot by a mob as he tried to flee and the rest of his accomplices were lynched.  This is a quick moment frozen in time posed yet also quite candid.


Man 1 has on a slouch hat, man 2 has on a Man With No Name style flat brimmed slouch if I've ever seen one!, he also is wearing something around his neck  Man 3 has a cowboy creased Stetson or MW style hat. Man 4 has a tall beehive. Man 5 another Stetson or a MW. Marshal Henry Brown 6 has a wide brimmed plainsman or a Stetson/MW its tipped back on his head, he's handcuffed from behind, and wears his pants over his boots. Man 7 is wearing a Stetson/MW. Deputy Ben Wheeler 8, has a slouch hat,  and he's wearing a bandana, that he probably used in the hold up. Man 9 an accomplice has a Stetson with a slight "cowboy" crease. Men 10 & 11 possibly "cowboy" creased slouches. Man 12 a "cowboy" creased Stetson or MW. Accomplice bank robber 13 has a cap looks like an "Elmer Fudd" farmer/hunting cap with ear flaps, ., he is ewaring his boots Texican style.

Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on September 07, 2008, 08:36:20 AM
Depictions of action in the Old Wild West are confined to pulp illustrations and fine art depictions.  Many action depictions are found in Harpers Weekly, The Police Gazette, Currier & Ives prints and in the works of Western artists Fredrick Remington, Charlie Russel, Edgar Paxson.

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This illustration (from the Bettman Archive NY in the Time Life Book "The Gunfighters") originally published in the Police Gazette depicts Billy The Kid blasting a drifter who waved a pistol at him.

We see a shanty saloon,  a two plank bar,  a knocked over case gin bottle, and four shot glasses. A keg of rye whisky is in the bottom left hand corner, a number of shots have been already fired and are indicated by the spilling liquid behind the drifter

Billy carries two guns, wears a wide brimmed hat possibly a plainsman or a Stetson/MW, the drifter has three guns , and a knife.  The two men to the right of Billy are wearing wide brimmed hats also. The drifter and the man to the right of Billy have shirts with collars the one to the right of Billy has part of a bandana showing. The drifter looks like he has on a gaudy "Wild West" show type shirt with a cowboy shirt pocket.

( (

Above is a detail of a Charlie Russel  painting entitled "When Guns Speak, Death Settles Disputes",
We see a gunfight ,pistols blazing under a starry night outside of the Long Horn Saloon and the Red Butte Hotel, it could be an action shot from any Western film.
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on September 09, 2008, 10:22:18 AM
So we come now to look at the Cinematic West and its depiction from 1903's "Great Train Robbery" to the present.

1898's Cripple Creek Bar Room and 1903's "Great Train Robbery" were contemporary with the exploits of the Wild Bunch/ Hole In The Wall Gang.  Below A scene from Edison's Cripple Creek Bar Room  film (1898) shows a Western bar room with denizens not unlike most of the town folk we see in our authentic photographic images of the West.

( (
( (

Left to right, man at far left in Stetson/MW, man sitting on table wears slouch, man leaning on door has a derby, next man wears Stetson/MW, and next to him a man in a top hat. The actors were from & studio was in New Jersey

Below a Montana Territory Bar sometime Pre 1889 (from Time life book "The Outlaws") Comparing the two if anything the Montana Saloon is more opulent.

( (
( (

Here we see a group of poker players on the left,  the two on the immediate left of the table have narrow brim hats man standing to right has a Stetson/MW man sitting  has a front cowboy crease. Bartender has on a narrow brim hat. The three pool players to the right wear narrow brim hats as does the spectator behind them.

Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on October 02, 2008, 12:53:16 PM
So the early depictions were spot on seemingly, and its understandable since they were rather contemporary. 

By 1913 there were about 60 studios now operating on the West coast. The early films of William S. Hart and Bronco Billy Anderson show a somewhat realistic portrayal of the West.

It was actor Tom Mix's films that brought the more flamboyant look to the West and the grown up boy scout character, in the Wild West Show costume. Mix began a trend that would metastasize into the "B" Western and by extention to the TV Westerns of Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rodgers, The Lone Ranger, etc., etc.

Below is William S. Hart, two guns, arm gauntlets, Stetson (from Jay Hymans "The Life & Times Of The Western Movie")

( (

And in a scene from the film "Hells Hinges" which again shows a saloon interior with dirt floor and a real variety of dress and hats, Sombrero's, Stetsons, and Slouch hats

( (

Typical costumes of the B western actors consisted of emphasising everything Western with an almost Art Deco style, oversized Stetsons, embroidered shirts with smile cut pockets and vests with plenty of flash, silver conchos, studs, arm gauntlets & fringed gloves, silver studded gunbelt occasionally wearing two gunbelts, large bandannas, overly embroidered boots. Basically Cowboy as Showman.
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on October 15, 2008, 09:20:07 PM
From Jay Hyams "The Life And Times Of The Western Movie" 

"The heroes of B Westerns rarely fired guns (some, like Hoot Gibson, didn't usually wear them- Gibson had to borrow a firearm from a pal when one was needed). They usually roped the villain rather than shooting him, but when they did resort to gunplay these heroes did not need to aim their revolvers. Nor were they forced to rely on gunpowder-or so it seemed-preferring to fling the bullet out of their gun with a fast downward slashing movement. They trusted in their virtue to guide the projectile-not to the villain's heart but to his gunhand, cleanly knocking away his weapon without breaking the skin.

As time passed the difference between the B Westerns and other Western films became more pronounced. Tom Mix was joined by Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, and a host of others who eventually included such heroes as Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, and Hopalong Cassidy. With the comming of sound a new breed of star arrived the happy go lucky singing cowboys."....

"Before television finally laid them to rest, B Westerns had evolved a fantasy world, with airplanes, trains, cars, horses, sixshooters, cowboy hats, and business suits all united by the joyous cowboy tunes"

Part of the gist of this treatise is touched upon by Hyams in that last sentence.

Just as B Westerns evolved a fantasy Western world so did mainstream Hollywood. The Epic Westerns of the 30's and 40's recreated the history of the American West in melodramatic grander.

Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on October 20, 2008, 07:14:46 AM

The Golden Age Of the Western:

OK check out the figures below,  the major film production period of the the Western is the stretch between 1935 to 1953 a total of 2168 feature Westerns were made and if we use the 100 min/feature ( some films were 90 minutes some 120 so this 100min figure  seemed like a good compromise)average that comes to 3613 hrs of Western depictions. Starting in 1950 Westerns began appearing on TV the years 1955 to 1963 being the high volume years and the year 1959 being the high water mark.

The Combined film and TV Westerns output comprises what we should start referring to as the "Golden Age of The Western" where the culture was innundated with Western images.  For almost every year between 1939 and 1973 there was 150+ hours of Western film and TV images per year, influencing the way the West was perceived. Add on top of that the books, magazines, and comic books available to the public and you could say the American culture was awash in Westerns.

The period between 1964 and 1976 had the addition of the Euro-Spaghetti Western productions which I don't have year by year figures for, but since they were not released here in great numbers we will not deal with them yet;

Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on October 20, 2008, 07:18:42 AM
Western Production figures by year are hard to find here are some highlighted years from Fagen's "The Encyclopedia of Westerns" these are one & two reel films.

1911 (43)
1915 (99)
1925 (205)

From  Films and TV Movie Listings by Genre, I would take these 1926-1929 figures with a grain of salt
I don't think it has the numbers for serials it may be only "A" films but even those seem too low
(I'll fix this when I can find a second source)

1926 (2)
1927 (0)
1928 (2)
1929 (1)

Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on October 20, 2008, 07:20:13 AM
From an online source:

Western Releases By Year 1930 - 1954
Includes A and B westerns, western shorts, and western-themed serials

1930 (82)
1931 (90)
1932 (112)
1933 (97)
1934 (79)
1935 (148)
1936 (133)
1937 (134)
1938 (117)        starting 1939 # features x by avg 100 minutes/60 min =  total hrs ___________
1939 (118)   x  100/60 = 196.7                                                                                                        \
1940 (129)   x  100/60 = 215                                                                                                             \
1941 (126)   x  100/60 = 210                                                                                                               ]
1942 (121)   x  100/60 = 201                                                                                                               ]
1943 (104)   x  100/60 = 173.3                                                                                                            ]
1944 (97)     x  100/60 = 161.6                                                                                                            ]
1945 (81)     x  100/60 = 135                                                                                                               ] 
1946 (99)     x  100/60 = 165                                                                                                               ] 
1947 (99)     x  100/60 = 165                                                                                                               ]
1948 (112)   x  100/60 = 186.6                                                                                                            ]
1949 (117)   x  100/60 = 195                                                                                                               ]
1950 (134)   x  100/60 = 233.3               9     hrs TV Western    total hrs =  242.3                              ]
1951 (103)   x  100/60 = 171.6             48.5                                                 220.1                              ]
1952 (106)   x  100/60 = 176.6             48.5                                                 225.1                              ]
1953 (90)     x  100/60 = 150                28.5                                                 178.5                               \
1954 (68)     x  100/60 = 113.3             63                                                    176.3                                \   
The following 1955-1959 list is possibly incomplete                                                                                          \____                                                                                                                                         ____ GOLDEN AGE
1955 (45)     x  100/60 =  75               205.5                                                 280.5                                 /
1956 (58)     x  100/60 =  96.6            237.5                                                 312.5                                /
1957 (58)     x  100/60 =  96.6            382                                                    478.6                               / 
1958 (43)     x  100/60 =  71.6            813                                                    884.6                              ]
1959 (35)     x  100/60 =  58.3            820.5                                                 878.8                              ]
Movie Listings by Genre  Westerns of the 60-70-80-90-00's                                                                ]                                                               
                                                                                                                                                             ]                                                                    ]
This has a few of Leone's Westerns, Django, The Mercenary and some of the other                           ]
Spaghetti Westerns so mostly its Hollywood titles and a few made for TV films .                                 ]
1960 (11)     x  100/60 =  18.3            719.5                                                 737.8                               ]
1961 (6)       x  100/60 =  10               630                                                    640                                  ]
1962 (6)       x  100/60 =  10               402                                                    412                                  ]
1963 (3)       x  100/60 =    5               220                                                    225                                  ]
1964 (7)       x  100/60 =  11.6            159                                                    170.6                               ]
1965 (12)     x  100/60 =  20               275                                                    295                                  ]
1966 (20)     x  100/60 =  33.3            343                                                    376.3                               ]
1967 (20)     x  100/60 =  33.3            312.5                                                 345.8                               ] 
1968 (21)     x  100/60 =  35               238                                                    273                                  ]
1969 (22)     x  100/60 =  36.6            197                                                    233.6                               ]
1970 (19)     x  100/60 =  31.6            150                                                    181.6                               ]
1971 (22)     x  100/60 =  36.6            153                                                    184.6                              /
1972 (24)     x  100/60 =  40               107.5                                                 147.5______________/
1973 (12)     x  100/60 =  20                 58                                                      78
1974 (5)       x  100/60 =    8.3            108.5                                                 116.8
1975 (8 )      x  100/60 =  13.3              60                                                      73.3
1976 (15)     x  100/60 =  25                 76                                                    101
1977 (3)       x  100/60 =    5                 22                                                      27
1978 (4)       x  100/60 =    6.6              22                                                      28.6
1979 (7)       x  100/60 =   11.6             30                                                      41.6

Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on October 20, 2008, 07:23:01 AM

1980 (7)       x  100/60 =   11.6             22                                                      33.6
1981 (2)       x  100/60 =     3.3             73                                                      76.3
1982 (4)       x  100/60 =     6.6             22                                                      28.6
1983 (2)       x  100/60 =     3.3               1                                                        4.3
1984 (0)       x  100/60 =     0                  0                                                        0
1985 (4)       x  100/60 =     6.6               6                                                      12.6
1986 (7)       x  100/60 =    11.6              0                                                      11.6
1987 (6)       x  100/60 =    10                 0                                                      10
1988 (4)       x  100/60 =      6.6              0                                                        6.6
1989 (2)       x  100/60 =      3.3            56.4                                                   59.7

1990 (5)       x  100/60 =      8.3            42                                                      50.3
1991 (6)       x  100/60 =     10              13                                                      23
1992 (1)       x  100/60 =       1.6           13                                                      14.6
1993 (3)       x  100/60 =       5              64.5                                                   69.5
1994 (11)     x  100/60 =     18.3         119.7                                                 138
1995 (4)       x  100/60 =       6.3           62                                                      68.3
1996 (4)       x  100/60 =       6.3           36                                                      42.3
1997 (2)       x  100/60 =       3.3           36                                                      39.3
1998 (2)       x  100/60 =       3.3           68                                                      71.3
1999 (5)       x  100/60 =       8.3                                                                       8.3

For the 2000's I don't have a way of easily getting a comprehensive list of all the possible Westerns produced so the list below is probably incomplete.

2000 (4)       x  100/60 =       6.3                                                                       6.3
2001 (4)       x  100/60 =       6.3                                                                       6.3
2002 (1)       x  100/60 =       1.6                                                                       1.6
2003 (4)       x  100/60 =       6.3                                                                       6.3
2004 (0)       x  100/60 =       0                                                                          0
2005 (3)       x  100/60 =       5                                                                          5
2006 (0)       x  100/60 =       0               3                                                         3
2007 (6)       x  100/60 =     10                                                                        10
2008 (2)       x  100/60 =       3.3                                                                      3.3

So my contention and the point of this whole little exercise is that Westerns that were made in the 1939-1973 "Golden Age of The Western" (both in film & TV) have a certain pallet, part of it is a look that we who lived through that period or those of us that are Western Aficionados or just have seen a lot of Westerns recognise as being the "correct look"  a feel that is the "correct feel" and certain traits that comprize the "correct deportment's" for a Western. I just concentrated on the hat as a focal point, showing that not everyone in the west wore ten gallon style Stetsons which it seems are propped on the heads of contemporary actors no matter how stupid it makes them look.  Once you get those conventions correct then you can, within those conventions,  try and push the envelope in a creative way.

Granted that during that time period there was a gradual flexability in character motivations between 1939 and and the early 1960's, look at the controversy surrounding the psychological Westerns and notably "High Noon". Later a more jarring one with comming of the anti hero in the Spaghetti Westerns, but the conventional look stayed generally within the same boundaries. We also had a more realistic depiction of violence ratcheted up over that period.

Our stable of actors that could make a convincing lead in a Western are limited.  In the Golden Age the lead actor had a weary weathered leathery look and was usually in his thirties or older and was show to be wise beyond his years.  The actors in their twenties played the young hot heads or the naive and inexperienced kids who usually made a fatal mistake and got blown away early. Now a days the scheme is turned on its head,  its the young adults and teens who are showed to be more knowledgeable than their elders, it may be playing to today's audience demographics but it doesn't ring true.

On top of all that you had a stable of conventional character actors who made a career of just appearing in film Westerns and in TV Westerns who also contributed to that same "correct look" over the transitional change from cowboy as boyscout to cowboy as antihero in the span of their lives.

Forget the hewing close to historical accuracy BS, or trying to hard to get the archaic speech patterns correct, the more modern directors attempt to make a Western too true to the actual historical West the farther they get away from the classic Western and its look.

Watching a Western should be like slipping into a comfortable old pair of shoes.

Its almost like trying to make a modern Film Noir,  it just doesn't look quite right. The difference with Film Noir and Neo Noir is for more obvious and readily understandable reasons, in Neo Noir everything looks to crisp, clear and new, you don't have that contemporary for the time post WWII rundown shabby outdoor locations and can't get new stockfootage to match the old look, nor do you have,  the steam locomotives the rolling stock, etc., etc., Noir was contemporary with the historical time it was shot and you are not shooting in Black & White on top of all that. 

For Westerns it shouldn't be THAT hard to get that classic look and old pair of shoes feeling correct, its just costuming, and the classic landscapes can be revisited and give an instantaneous cachet to a project and there are still a lot of great untapped landscapes out there available that are way more accessible in this day and age than in the past.

Its the classic Western character actors that we are loosing that would also provide an instant bridge and a continuing continuity to the past if they are used in more than just cameos, you need 1/2 of the cast to be Golden Age veterans, right now actors who where in their 30's in the 60's are in their 70's, so the realistic pool currently that we have is actors who were working the terminal period of the Golden Age of The Western the 1970's, actors like Warren Beatty, the Carradine brothers, The Quaid Brothers, Kurt Russel, Jeff Bridges, Michael J.  Pollard, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, and others.

Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on November 04, 2008, 02:02:40 PM
Two shots of Tom Mix.

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Notice of course the huge Wild West Show Stetsons.
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: The Peacemaker on November 20, 2008, 02:15:28 PM
Loved the graph depicting the golden age of the western.

Really interesting to note how in 2004 not a single western was made. Just a shame.
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on August 25, 2010, 03:03:09 PM
Loved the graph depicting the golden age of the western.

Really interesting to note how in 2004 not a single western was made. Just a shame.

1984 also  ;)
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: noodles_leone on October 23, 2013, 08:07:45 AM
Cracked's 5 ridiculous myths everyone believes about Wild West:

Point 2 is about hats  ;)
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: cigar joe on October 23, 2013, 12:55:34 PM
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: noodles_leone on May 18, 2022, 02:59:00 AM
Nice video about how Stetson hats are made:
For the record, I do own one Stetson but that's a panama hat. Both cowboyish hats i own are australian (one of them being an Akubra, a brand I would highly recommend to anybody looking for an actual outdoor hat).

Back to the topic of this thread: I think the hats situation in movies has changed for the better, lately. I've noticed absolutely great and realistic hats in recent western movies. On top of my mind:

The hats in this movie are worn off and come into all kind of shapes. City hats repurposed, outdoor hats that have aged... Just like it's supposed to be. And not one of them look like what a modern day hipster or TV singer would wear. They're messy, dirty, lots of open crowns, all kinds of imrpovised hatbands. Also, absolutely terrific movie if you're into "anti-western movies" (in this case anti western means "pro realism").

Good mix of real hats and "fake cowboy hats city people would wear at the time to look like a cowboy".
Title: Re: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns
Post by: curraetop on November 10, 2022, 12:13:48 AM
Man 1 appears to be donning a plug or a pork pie cap. Man number two is wearing a short beehive, Man number three is wearing a Panama hat, Gamblers number four is wearing a stovepipe top hat, Man number five is wearing a tall beehive, Man number six appears to be a longhunter, Man number seven appears to be the only sombrero, Man number eight appears to be a deformed slouch, Man number nine is wearing another pork pie, Man number ten is wearing a tall be (