Photographs by Raymond Meier are not available on the online version of this story.

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.