We live in an instant gratification world—giant stores, factory-assembled and mass-produced products, and two-day delivery of online purchases means most things are easily acquired quickly. One exception: a handmade, authentic Western hat.
That's because these hats are made to order using traditional techniques and technology that date back to the cowboy headpieces of the 1800s.
“You don’t find many businesses that do things the way they were done a century ago,” points out hatmaker Tom Hirt, of Tom Hirt Custom Hats. “People come and see me because they want something that is authentic and made the way it was 100 years ago.”
Hirt and other western hatmakers create unique, made-to-order pieces that fit customers’ precise head size and shape, along with their preferences. The result: A hat that’s flattering, practical, and allows its wearer to connect to history. “Cowboy hats are part of our heritage and we need to keep that alive,” says Laura Wortman, owner and hatmaker at Montana Peaks Hat Company.
Look no further than these five shops to find a hat made with an eye to history—and personalized to suit your look and hat-wearing needs.
Tom Hirt Custom Hats in Canon City, Colorado
“Everything is custom made, one at a time, to fit a customer’s needs,” says Hirt. Most orders are cowboy or brimmed hats, made with fur felt from beavers, although Hirt can use other furs and craft other styles, too. Each hat he makes is sewn and finished by hand. Little has changed since the store first opened in 1912. The only machinery in Hirt’s shop—other than an electric iron—is a vintage Singer sewing machine. “If you went to a hat shop in 1880, it would probably look just like mine,” says Hirt.
“Most of my customers are tried and true hat wearers from all avenues of life,” says Hirt. That includes cowboys, ranchers, and country musicians, although Hirt has also made hats worn in movies (including the classic western Tombstone) and by notable figures (such as President Ronald Reagan).
Tom Hirt’s studio sits outside of Canon City, Colorado. If you’re in the area, and want a handmade hat, you can set up an appointment at his studio or meet him in Penrose, a nearby town, at a coffee shop to talk about what you want—or you can reach out by phone or email.