Founded in: 1865 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Company was established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1865 when John B. Stetson decided to mass-produce a hat like one he had fashioned for himself out of necessity during a lengthy Western expedition. Stetson’s Boss of the Plains, with its high crown and wide flat brim, became the prototype for all other cowboy hat designs. Now located in St. Joseph, Missouri, the Stetson hat factory there and its second factory in Galveston, Texas, continue to turn out the “Boss of the Plains,” along with over 100 variations for men and women.
J.R.’s hat is now displayed in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s contemporary Americana exhibit. Furthermore, the Stetson hat has also been worn by prominent country singers from Dale Evans to Trisha Yearwood, spurred on by legendary female maverick Annie Oakley, proving “that females can carry off this most essential Western look, too.”
The Stetson has become “a symbol of Western pride and bravado, this hat, with its large crown and wide brim, has graced the heads of America’s most treasured Western heroes, from old-time favorites like actors John Wayne, Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger, and country singer Gene Autry, to modern-day popular artists like Garth Brooks and Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing on the television series Dallas.”
Stetson eventually became the world’s largest hat maker, producing more than 3,300,000 hats a year in a factory spread over 9 acres (36,000 m2) in Philadelphia. In addition to its Western and fashion hats, Stetson also produces fragrance, apparel, footwear, eyewear, belts, bourbon and a range of other products evoking the historic American West.
Stetson University and Stetson University College of Law in Florida were named after John B. Stetson in 1899 for his contributions to the school.
John B. Stetson was born in 1830 in Orange, New Jersey where his father Stephen Stetson was a hatter. He worked in his father’s shop until he went West for his health.
Stetson created a rugged hat for himself made from thick beaver felt while panning for gold in Colorado. According to legend, Stetson invented the hat while on a hunting trip while showing his companions how he could make cloth out of fur without tanning. Fur felt hats are lighter, they maintain their shape, and withstand weather and renovation better.
Stetson made an unusually large hat from felt he made from hides collected on the trip, and wore the hat for the remainder of the expedition. Although initially worn as a joke, Stetson soon grew fond of the hat for its ability to protect him from the elements. It had a wide brim, a high crown to keep an insulating pocket of air on the head, and was used to carry water.
As their travels continued, a cowboy is said to have seen J.B. Stetson and his unusual hat, rode up, tried the hat on for himself, and paid Stetson for it with a five dollar gold piece, riding off with the first western Stetson hat on his head.
Boss of the plains hat
Stetson’s western adventures came to an end in 1865. Stetson, now 35 years old, and in better health, returned east and established his own hat firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which produced high quality hats for outdoor use. After producing some initial designs based on popular styles of the day, Stetson decided to create a hat based on his experiences in the American West, which he called the “Boss of the Plains”.
The original “Boss”, manufactured by Stetson in 1865, was flat brimmed, had a straight-sided crown, with rounded corners. These lightweight, waterproof hats were natural in color, with four-inch crowns and brims. A plain hatband was fitted to adjust head size. The sweatband bore John B. Stetson’s name.
USA Made brand, Buck Mason collaborated with Stetson to design a series of bare bones, luxury hats for life in the American city. With a nod to Stetson’s history of craftsmanship going back to 1865, the collection uses only the finest fur felts, a strong, rich material rarely seen today. The Stetson x Buck Mason collection represents the finest in enduring, minimal design.
Photos thanks to GearPatrol