There's nothing like traveling through small town Texas to quiet any rumblings of personal pretentions. Much as I love much of what is termed the "latest and greatest" or uber chic - it's hard to top the classics which have stood the test of time. Fine dining and couture have its place, but there's nothing like comfort food and comfort clothing. They generally evolved from filling a need based on economy and use of resources at hand.
This stack of hats was photographed in Alpine, Texas at the Big Bend Saddlery. Just down the road from Marfa, they've been the local resource for all things needed by the local cowboys since 1905. Rather like a family hardware store with the emphasis on horses and cows and those who spend their lives dealing with those creatures. One of the basics is a good hat. Like a good pair of boots, they can be very fancy or just do the job, with style, for a much smaller investment. I love the fact that these hats have been the preferred choice for the basic hired hand cowboy for many a year. Woven of palm leaves - they're easily customized with the roll of the brim, the additional of a few grommets and the crease of the crown. They all start out as the same simple rounded version shown stacked at the bottom . The hats on top show some options as to the details which can be specified and ordered.
Here's the BEST part: your custom hat will be ready in about half an hour and the total cost will set you back about $30.00.
Have you fainted yet??!!!
I almost fell on the floor of the Big Ben Saddlery.
This may be Texas, but we're clearly not in Neiman Marcus.
Doesn't it just make your heart leap to know that pure fabulousness exists in this world for less than the cost of a decent (though not fabulous) lunch in most cities.
What does it take to go from the no-shape rounded version, on the floor, to the sharp natty version displayed on the wall? I hadn't a clue how this happened.... . . so, I asked to be shown the process. " Not a problem, mam" - says the excruciatingly courteous salesman and cowboy hat maker. I must say, Real Texas Cowboys are Old World Courteous.
After giving him directions as to my preferences , I followed him to the back room where he would work his magic.
The tools were quite simple:
a steamer and a galvanized garbage can filled with water.
The process was also quite simple: dunk the entire hat in the water to soften the woven palm base , then work in the crease and rolls with the steamer. Voila! Cowboy Chic.
Since the entire process would require about 30 minutes, he suggested I might like to take advantage of the fact that there was a Dairy Queen across the street .
Twist my arm.
An ice cream cone dipped in chocolate is true comfort food for this child of the South.
Returning from DQ (ice cream in hand and dripping), I was given further instructions. The hat was still damp and would require that it dry in place, on my head, in order to obtain a perfect fit.
Small problem. I'd be sitting in the car for the next 5 hours, until we reached our next stop - San Antonio. That perfectly turned 6 inch brim would mean I'd need to sit bolt upright for those 5 hours ... . .. no leaning back or resting my head.
Uncomfortable .. . . but, so worth it.