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Letter from Stetson

ILB Frank

Familiar Face
Messages
58
If you can't tell, I've been digging through the archives on the forum. In case this is tldr; in 2006, several loungers started a letter writing campaign to Stetson/Hatco to encourage them to make better quality hats (specifically dress hats). This thread was started when Stetson responded.

So now I'm curious. I bought a Stetson Catera in May (2021) and it seems fairly well constructed. Time will tell. But - are there any of you out there who knows from experience or hearsay - has Stetson improved the quality of their hats since 2006? Has the quality by chance deteriorated from then? Is the quality roughly the same?

I infer from reading all this that maybe the western hats did not suffer the same fate (or suffer as much) of severely diminished quality. Again, does anyone out there know?
 

belfastboy

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,139
Location
vancouver, canada
If you can't tell, I've been digging through the archives on the forum. In case this is tldr; in 2006, several loungers started a letter writing campaign to Stetson/Hatco to encourage them to make better quality hats (specifically dress hats). This thread was started when Stetson responded.

So now I'm curious. I bought a Stetson Catera in May (2021) and it seems fairly well constructed. Time will tell. But - are there any of you out there who knows from experience or hearsay - has Stetson improved the quality of their hats since 2006? Has the quality by chance deteriorated from then? Is the quality roughly the same?

I infer from reading all this that maybe the western hats did not suffer the same fate (or suffer as much) of severely diminished quality. Again, does anyone out there know?
I own 3 good quality modern Stetsons from about 2015 or so. 2 Stetsonians with a retail of $250 and an LE beaver felt retail of $300. I purchased them as the felt is great quality. But they suffered in two main areas. The Stetsonians: the first time they were dampened from rain (not soaked just damp) the brims went all wonky and I ended up sending them to my hatter to be straightened out. The other is that on all 3 hats the ribbon work was cheap and shoddy. Cheap generic black ribbon on both hats (Cariboo & Mink), cheap polyester on the LE. Ribbons/bows looked like they had been tacked on by a machine...clumsy and obvious. Oh, also on the LE I replaced the leather sweat band recently as the original had hardened and was not wearable....after just 6 years? I replaced the ribbons, the brims are fine now and overall I like the hats a lot but I am thinking one should not have to make repairs to a $250-$300 hat to bring it up to a reasonable standard.
 

belfastboy

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,139
Location
vancouver, canada
I just took the time to read this thread. Interesting to look back 15 years on The Lounge. Any old timers still around that can remember how much Art charged for a beaver felt custom back then?
 
Messages
15,019
Location
Central California
A few years ago there was an upward trend with felt quality and design/style. Matt Deckard was Stetson’s creative director from 2012 to 2016. He did a lot of work bringing back better felt and better styles, but Stetson stuck with their less than ideal mass production process. The styles got a better, but the build quality remained the same. Even with the shoddy ribbon and bow work and less than ideal sweatbands etc., these hats were very successful…among member of The Fedora Lounge. They weren’t all that well received by the general hat buying public. It’s easy to think that the hat buying community as a whole is represented by the members here, but we are a small group that does not represent the majority. Most hat buyers don’t want open crowns. Most hat buyers don’t want taller crowns and wider brims like the 1940s fedoras many of us here prefer. Most hat buyers don’t like the boxy minimally tapered crown shapes, etc.

In my opinion, it’s a mixed bag. Stetson no longer uses the hated powders to even out the poor felt dye jobs, and there the Royal De Luxe felt is decent and we have several pure beaver offerings (some of which have been fantastic), but the build quality still does not impress me.

For me, it’s a value proposition. It’s hard to buy a Stetson for around the same price as a custom hat that won’t have any of the flaws.

The build quality of the recent/current line of western hats from Stetson have all suffered from the same quality issues, but I have less experience with their westerns and have only bought them as used hats. I have, however, handled them enough in stores to form an opinion. Now we are back to the same place as TFL members don’t represent most hat buyers. Most people who buy a modern Stetson, dress or western, are completely happy with them, they serve their intended purpose and the hats look good to their owners. It’s really only when you have a better hat to compare them to that the issues with modern Stetsons really become noticeable. That’s my opinion anyway.
 

belfastboy

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,139
Location
vancouver, canada
A few years ago there was an upward trend with felt quality and design/style. Matt Deckard was Stetson’s creative director from 2012 to 2016. He did a lot of work bringing back better felt and better styles, but Stetson stuck with their less than ideal mass production process. The styles got a better, but the build quality remained the same. Even with the shoddy ribbon and bow work and less than ideal sweatbands etc., these hats were very successful…among member of The Fedora Lounge. They weren’t all that well received by the general hat buying public. It’s easy to think that the hat buying community as a whole is represented by the members here, but we are a small group that does not represent the majority. Most hat buyers don’t want open crowns. Most hat buyers don’t want taller crowns and wider brims like the 1940s fedoras many of us here prefer. Most hat buyers don’t like the boxy minimally tapered crown shapes, etc.

In my opinion, it’s a mixed bag. Stetson no longer uses the hated powders to even out the poor felt dye jobs, and there the Royal De Luxe felt is decent and we have several pure beaver offerings (some of which have been fantastic), but the build quality still does not impress me.

For me, it’s a value proposition. It’s hard to buy a Stetson for around the same price as a custom hat that won’t have any of the flaws.

The build quality of the recent/current line of western hats from Stetson have all suffered from the same quality issues, but I have less experience with their westerns and have only bought them as used hats. I have, however, handled them enough in stores to form an opinion. Now we are back to the same place as TFL members don’t represent most hat buyers. Most people who buy a modern Stetson, dress or western, are completely happy with them, they serve their intended purpose and the hats look good to their owners. It’s really only when you have a better hat to compare them to that the issues with modern Stetsons really become noticeable. That’s my opinion anyway.
It would be an interesting discussion to have with an actual working cowboy.....how does he view his working hat? Do working cowboys buy the expensive custom western hats? Are they content to buy a Stetson off the rack and toss it when it is done? Or are most westerns bought either for dress wear by the 'urban cowboy' or for an event, worn once and tossed in a closet? What/where/how is the western market constructed? Who buys those very expensive western customs? Can a working cowboy even afford them?
 
Messages
15,019
Location
Central California
It would be an interesting discussion to have with an actual working cowboy.....how does he view his working hat? Do working cowboys buy the expensive custom western hats? Are they content to buy a Stetson off the rack and toss it when it is done? Or are most westerns bought either for dress wear by the 'urban cowboy' or for an event, worn once and tossed in a closet? What/where/how is the western market constructed? Who buys those very expensive western customs? Can a working cowboy even afford them?


I happen to work with many real cowboys who have been doing it for generations. These people own tens of thousands of acres and thousands of head of cattle. Most of them wear cheap hats. I see a lot of beat up Shantung hats worn year around. The felt hats I see aren’t anything special and are usually stained and deformed. I have seen better hats at their funerals, but I haven’t gotten a close enough look at them to see what they are, but I’d bet they aren’t anything expensive. Most of them live in nice homes and drive 80k pickups, but they don’t spend money very freely.
 

belfastboy

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,139
Location
vancouver, canada
I happen to work with many real cowboys who have been doing it for generations. These people own tens of thousands of acres and thousands of head of cattle. Most of them wear cheap hats. I see a lot of beat up Shantung hats worn year around. The felt hats I see aren’t anything special and are usually stained and deformed. I have seen better hats at their funerals, but I haven’t gotten a close enough look at them to see what they are, but I’d bet they aren’t anything expensive. Most of them live in nice homes and drive 80k pickups, but they don’t spend money very freely.
The few times I have looked at custom hatters targeting the western market the prices they charge I found staggeringly expensive and I wonder who the hell is buying all these hats. I dropped into one located in a very small west Texas town and he was no longer accepting orders as his wait list had grown to over a year in length.
 
Messages
15,019
Location
Central California
The few times I have looked at custom hatters targeting the western market the prices they charge I found staggeringly expensive and I wonder who the hell is buying all these hats. I dropped into one located in a very small west Texas town and he was no longer accepting orders as his wait list had grown to over a year in length.


Maybe it’s a regional thing. The ranchers I work with are a frugal bunch and they don’t spend their money on hats. The biggest rancher in my area wears a beat up and stained Shantung all year. His boots are down at the heal and his faded jeans have the occasional hole. Some of these men are worth millions but you’d never know it.
 

jonesy86

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,566
Location
Kauai
Maybe it’s a regional thing. The ranchers I work with are a frugal bunch and they don’t spend their money on hats. The biggest rancher in my area wears a beat up and stained Shantung all year. His boots are down at the heal and his faded jeans have the occasional hole. Some of these men are worth millions but you’d never know it.
Probably echos of the dustbowl migration to The Central Valley.
 

M Brown

One of the Regulars
Messages
298
Location
N Tx
It should be realized that Stetson, just like Fender does with guitars, makes a variety of hats in price ranges from cheap to expensive. You can buy a Stratocaster for $149.99 all the way up to $5 grand...and that's not counting vintage. Same with hats. You can get a cheap wool hat or a high dollar fur felt. And just about everything in between.

I've got several Stetsons and, considering their various ages, build quality, and price ranges, I can't find a thing wrong or inferior with any of them. However, I steer clear of wool hats. I had a nice wool fedora back in the 80's and after getting caught in a hundred year flood/downpour it shrunk to baby size. That did it with wool for me. Learned my lesson.
 

Rmccamey

My Mail is Forwarded Here
Messages
3,974
Location
Central Texas
I happen to work with many real cowboys who have been doing it for generations. These people own tens of thousands of acres and thousands of head of cattle. Most of them wear cheap hats. I see a lot of beat up Shantung hats worn year around. The felt hats I see aren’t anything special and are usually stained and deformed. I have seen better hats at their funerals, but I haven’t gotten a close enough look at them to see what they are, but I’d bet they aren’t anything expensive. Most of them live in nice homes and drive 80k pickups, but they don’t spend money very freely.

Same here, most working cowboys in central Texas buy entry level stiff westerns with wide brims (and the equivalent Shantung straws) and then beat them to death over the ensuing years. A few will splurge on a $1000 100X they wear to Christmas and Easter church services, a wedding or two, and funerals.
 
Messages
15,019
Location
Central California
It should be realized that Stetson, just like Fender does with guitars, makes a variety of hats in price ranges from cheap to expensive. You can buy a Stratocaster for $149.99 all the way up to $5 grand...and that's not counting vintage. Same with hats. You can get a cheap wool hat or a high dollar fur felt. And just about everything in between.

I've got several Stetsons and, considering their various ages, build quality, and price ranges, I can't find a thing wrong or inferior with any of them. However, I steer clear of wool hats. I had a nice wool fedora back in the 80's and after getting caught in a hundred year flood/downpour it shrunk to baby size. That did it with wool for me. Learned my lesson.


Thieve are just my opinions based on my experiences and my personal preferences:

It’s all about expectations and comparisons. I find the modern leather sweatbands inferior to some of the older ones as far as durability and comfort go. I find the modern glued in liners inferior to the sewn in liners. I find the thick stiff felt that you can only shape with steam and/or water to be inferior to vintage westerns you could shape by hand. I find the cheap screen print liners inferior to the embroidered liners. I find the blurred and low-detail sweatband markings inferior to the old intricate debossing on older hats. I find the sometimes loose ribbon inferior to the tightly fitted and properly swirled vintage ribbon. I find the monofilament fishing line used to sew on the ribbons, with the resulting obvious locations where it’s tacked on, inferior to the color matched thread and hidden stitching of vintage hats. For me, I feel that I can articulate why I think modern Stetsons aren’t as good as I’d like not as good as they once were. This does not mean the modern hats are not serviceable or that I’m not completely satisfied with the ones I own as they are exactly what I was expecting when I bought them. I’d also bet that the average hat buyer wouldn’t see all/any of my issues as important and for their uses they’re probably not wrong.

I own and enjoy several modern Stetson hats, but to my way of thinking they are inferior to vintage Stetsons. I still buy them because they’re available and they fit my intended purpose. It’s like acknowledging that a 1940s 7XCB is better than a 1950s 3X but still appreciating the 3X. I also don’t always want to wear the 7XCB as it’s not always the right tool for the job. That’s just me.
 

Rmccamey

My Mail is Forwarded Here
Messages
3,974
Location
Central Texas
The official creed of the hat lovers of TFL. Thanks, Brent.

I find the thick stiff felt that you can only shape with steam and/or water to be inferior to vintage westerns you could shape by hand. I find the cheap screen print liners inferior to the embroidered liners. I find the blurred and low-detail sweatband markings inferior to the old intricate debossing on older hats. I find the sometimes loose ribbon inferior to the tightly fitted and properly swirled vintage ribbon. I find the monofilament fishing line used to sew on the ribbons, with the resulting obvious locations where it’s tacked on, inferior to the color matched thread and hidden stitching of vintage hats.
 

jonesy86

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,566
Location
Kauai
Many of these family’s ranches in the Sierra foothills predate the Dust Bowl. My mother’s family came from Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and I grew up listening to my grandparents’ stories. Although they never moved back their hearts were always in Oklahoma.
Not many miners made much in the gold rush. Probably a lot of them went into ranching and farming.
 
Not many miners made much in the gold rush. Probably a lot of them went into dancing and farming.

Dancing?

CBD106BF-B75A-454C-B920-3C43081D92DB.jpeg
 
Messages
15,523
Cattle will sling a lot of snot & drool from their front end, & liquid & fecal matter from the other. Some drool & other splatter from horses. Around here we don't have many working cowboys on horseback. We have dogs & pickup trucks. Anyone feeding & doctoring cattle wear either a plasticized shantung straw they can wipe clean, or a free ball cap with advertising. A DVM might show up wearing a felt OR or a farrier might show up wearing a full Western, but those are worn to denote their status & will stay in the truck when they approach the stock.
 
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