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10 Gallon Hat

10 Gallon Hats – Why Do We Call it a Ten Gallon Hat?

When you’re hearing the name “10 gallons hat” for the first time and wonder whether it’s big enough to hold 10 gallons of water or has something to do with 10 gallons, to your disappointment, it’s not what you’re thinking.

The hat has nothing to do with liquid volume and the holding capacity.

Even though it doesn’t hold 10 gallons of water, this western-style classic hat is possibly the most defining staple of the iconic image of a cowboy. Yes, 10 gallon hats are nothing but cowboy hats and are incredibly popular for a reason.

What is a 10 Gallon Hat?

“10 gallon hats” are more popularly recognized by the name “cowboy hats”. As you must have known about this legendary piece which completes a cowboy’s look, they are loved by all ages, from teens to adults, for their high crowns and wide brims.

They are made up of beaver pelts in the olden times, and fashionistas say that the hats made up of beaver fur look more authentic. Today’s cowboy hats are also made up of artificial fibers, straw, wool,  leather, and even available as a stylish mesh cowboy hat which made customers fall in love with its breathability.

Hats with wide brims are recognized as 10 gallon hats and are more popular in Texas, while hats with short brims are common in northern plains.

History of 10-gallon Hat

It All Started in New Jersey

It all started with a New Jersey man named John B Stetson, born to Stephen Stetson, a hatmaker, in 1830 at Orange. John was working in his father’s shop. In the 1850s, he was affected by tuberculosis and started his journey towards the west to cure his Tb.

John B Stetson
Portrait of John B. Stetson (Wikimedia)

Birth of The Ten Gallon Cowboy Hat

During his travel through the plains and rockies, he found that his small brimmed hat cannot withstand any harsh weather conditions. Then, an idea struck his head “ what if I made a hat with a wide brim to shade my neck, with a high crown to shed the rain with a felt fabric so that it won’t get hot?” 

All he had at the time was a beaver pelt and nothing to shape them except with a cooking pot and frying pan. Now, you would have guessed how it got its shape. When a cowboy saw his legendary piece, he bought it for a five-dollar gold piece.

Stepson Became a National Brand

John returned home penniless in 1865 with the idea of making a hat to protect because most people only had narrow brimmed hats like fedoras, derby, and bowlers, which were meant for dress-up rather than protection.

He borrowed $60 from his sister Louisa, hired two workers to make more prototypes of the hat, and this is where the famous boss of the plains hats was born.

Soon, the caps were serving all the working people of the west, cowboys, prospectors, and ranchers in his region. Passers-by Stetson met along bought his hat for a price of a colt pistol, which made Stetson believe that he had made it.

When he wanted to sell them, he thought of a different marketing idea than other manufacturers in 1865. When most brands were regional at that time, Stetson used the telegraph and railroad to create a national brand.

Having his headquarters in Philadelphia, he had an idea to sell his hats to each dealer in the southwest, encouraging them to order. They ordered 12 each and were very pleased.

His hard work won him the best hat award in the Paris exposition in 1889.

Borrowed $60 and Built Up an Empire

Soon, notable people like buffalo bill, Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley began to wear their hats and thus became a fashion statement of the generation. A mind-blowing fact is Oakley’s ribbon-trimmed stetson hat was sold for $17,295.

Stetson grew his majestic empire, John. B Stetson company, and the rest is history! When the original boss of the plains hat was sold at $5 in 1865, the beaver hat was sold at $30, which is more than the income people made those days. Today, you can buy boss of the plain hat for $135.  Sounds too pricey? 

Go for the best-selling stetson’s 10 gallon hat for sale, which is available at a much better price here!  Rock the new look and be overwhelmed with compliments!

George L. Russell Junior, President of the John B. Stetson Company. (1940). (UTA Libraries)

10 Gallon Hats Were More Than a Headwear

Unarguably, the huge success of his boss of the plains hats was their versatility to withstand any weather conditions, snow, rain, hail, or shine! People even used his hats to store precious valuables and even as a bucket.

The famous Stetson painting was another reason to misunderstand that it even holds 10 gallons of water. It was Texas rangers’ favorite for them to drink from, to slap a steer, to blindfold a stubborn horse, and to mark as a target for gunfights.

Because of its mind-blowing versatility, durability, and distinctive style, this cowboy hat, also called a ten gallon hat and boss of the plains hat, is a timeless, classic style for centuries.

Who Invented the 10-gallon Hat?

Wikipedia mentions that the credit goes to John Batterson Stetson, the founder of John B Stetson hat company, for originating the American cowboy hats. From 1866 to today, the construction, quality, design, and manufacturing process of the 10 gallon hat remains unchanged since the first one was created.

When was the 10-gallon Hat Invented?

According to history, the first 10 gallon hat was discovered by John B Stetson in 1866 when he found that his narrow brimmed hat was not delivering enough protection against harsh weather conditions. 

So, he used beaver pelts to make tall crowned and wide-brimmed hats, called 10-gallon hats, and soon called the boss of the plain hats.

How Did the Ten Gallon Hat Get Its Name?

Last Drop From His Stetson
Last drop from his stetson poster

Finally, you’ve found the answer to the challenging question in your mind. When it has nothing to do with liquid volume, where does the name come from?

To be on point, the name is a linguistic mistake or mashup, and there are two theories for how the term arose.

The English term “ten gallons” is a corruption of the Spanish term “tan galán”, which means very handsome or so fine. Another theory is the cap is tall enough to be tied with ten galáns which means hatbands. When the Texas cowboys misunderstood the word galán for gallon, the mistaken, popular term began to spread with a question mark.

Does the Ten Gallon Hat Really Hold 10 Gallons?

No, unless you create a hat to hold 10 gallons of water. A Stetson hat can hold only 3 quarts of water.

Along with the hat, Stetson’s famous painting of a cowboy giving his horse water from his hat became all the rage. Even though it was a highly creative marketing ad, it was misunderstood by another group of people. The ad was to make people understand that stetson hats are tightly weaved and waterproof.

Final Thoughts

10 gallons hats weren’t a forgotten part of history anytime! Popular celebrities wear them in mini-series, movies, and in real life. Take John Wayne, Clayton Moore, Tom mix, Tommy Lee Jones, Anjelica Huston, Indiana Jones, Urban cowboy, and even the US President Lyndon B Johnson. And there is even a piece of interesting news on how a ten-gallon hat helps to heal relations between China and America. And the trending part: Little Nas X, with his biggest hit, “ Old Town Road,” made his signature cowboy ten gallon hat a breakout star, again and again. Why don’t you? Give it a go!

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