Texans have always been headstrong about personal adornment, especially when it comes to cowboy hats. That’s because, for the cowboy, a hat was an essential part of his wardrobe; it was shade, windbreaker, and fashion statement all in one. A buckaroo was usually brimming with inventive uses for his hat: it could snap a sluggish horse to attention or motivate an intractable steer. A fellow could doze off on it (or under it) or drink water from it. It was also handy for fanning campfires. You couldn’t top a hat as a personal trademark. By binding, creasing, curling, or decorating it, a cowboy all but broadcast where he was from. For standing out in a crowd or when silhouetted against the sunset, a hat could make the man. Although cowboy hats once belonged to the working class, these days they are in a class by themselves.
Photographs by Raymond Meier are not available on the online version of this story.