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A fter leaving New Jersey to explore the American West, John Batterson Stetson sold the first Boss of the Plains — more commonly known as the first cowboy hat — to a fellow traveler for a five-dollar gold piece. Having grown up in his father's hat-making business, Stetson applied his knowledge of millinery to create an accessory suitable for the open trail, crafting a hat from weather-resistant beaver felt with a unique, and soon- to-be iconic high crown and wide brim. He founded the John B. Stetson Company in 1865 and quickly became a household name, supplying hats for cowboys, industrialists, pioneers, and countless others enchanted by the spirit of the new frontier. Of course, the hat itself became a symbol of this romantic era, and THE ZEITGEIST OF WILLY GUHL BY RAINEY KNUDSON. ART DIRECTION MICHELLE AVIÑA. PHOTOGRAPHY PÄR BENGTSSON, LISA PETROLE. BY LISA COLLINS SHADDOCK. PHOTOGRAPHY TASYA VAN REE. PORTRAIT LAUREN WITHROW. THIS OLD HAT THE ICONIC STETSON IS ANYTHING BUT OLD HAT, AND ITS AMERICAN CRAFTSMANSHIP HAS YET ANOTHER GENERATION FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE COWBOY HAT. today the two are inextricably linked. Famous wearers over the years have included Annie Oakley, William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Calamity Jane, John Wayne, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Frank Churchill, Barack Obama, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, Bing Crosby, Bob Dylan, and Ernest Hemingway, among others. Even with its prominent seat atop the heads of U.S. presidents, celebrities, and the Lone Ranger, the Stetson hat has remained an embodiment of the American spirit, rather than a mere symbol of it. Within 30 years of opening in Philadelphia in 1870, the first Stetson factory became the largest in the world, employing more than 5,400 people. Today, more than 150 years later, the felt hat manufacturing process remains the same — and is now done exclusively in Garland, Texas. Each Stetson hat takes more than 16 weeks to produce and passes through at least 200 hands before it's shipped out. Andrea Bozeman, VP of marketing and ecommerce, says the first step is mixing the felt (a proprietary blend). This sets Stetson apart as the only American hat company that personally handles every aspect of hat making, from the raw materials to the finished product. The raw felt is spun into a cone-like shape, roughly eight times the size of a finished hat. In order to create a felt that's stronger than traditional woven fabrics, it's then boiled in 160-degree water and pressed. This process is repeated until all of the fibers are interlocked. The felt is then formed into a rough hat body, dyed, and coated with a natural shellac to keep its shape. Once dry, the next steps are tipping, brimming, and blocking — the early stages of stretching the hat's brim and pulling out an open crown. The hats It takes more than 16 weeks to produce a Stetson, and it passes through 200 hands in the process. (Continued on page 48) 46

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