The people at Resistol Hats recently did some high-powered research and somehow concluded that there are more than 17 million cowboy hats in the U.S. If you are among those behatted hordes and live in Texas, chances are yours is a Resistol. Based in Garland, Resistol sells about a million cowboy hats a year, ranging in price from $15 for a straw workingman’s special to $3,000 for a beaver-and-ermine number. The cowboy hat may be the single most resonant throwback to the glory days of the open range, the one thing that most says “Texas” to the rest of the world. But Resistol’s story shows that you don’t have to be a legend as long as you know how to act like one, and that even legends can be stretched only so far.
The earliest antecedents of the high-crown, wide-brim cowboy hat were probably worn centuries ago by Mongolian horsemen like Genghis Khan and his plucky posse of hard-riding buckaroos. Similar headgear was brought to the New World by Spanish horsemen. Their hats evolved first into the Mexican sombrero and then into an American version sometimes called a woolsey. It was cheap and homemade, but even at its worst it was a marvel of utility. The wide brim protected the wearer from swirling dust and the killing prairie sun. The tall crown kept the