By: Brittany Bevis
For this week’s Throwback Thursday we looked back in the archives about fifty years to uncover a trend that had its origins in a few iconic western personalities of the era. As longtime APHA member Ronnie Stallings confirms, the influence of NASCAR “King,” Richard Petty, and Hollywood cowboy star, Tom Mix, were two of the driving forces behind the popularity of the feathered hat band, crease style, and hats with a decidedly Native American influence.
“Back then, we used to get a seven inch crown and it had your ‘Tom Mix’ crease,” Stallings says. “A lot of people wore them back in the 50s and 60s. Tom Mix was a big cowboy Hollywood star and that’s what he wore back in the 30s and 40s. They would [have] a good four to five inch brim.”
While Mix often sported the popular ten-gallon cowboy hat in his silent films, it was Petty who later helped to popularize the decoration of choice for these hats that had quite a large amount of crown space to fill. Some hat bands boasted beaded Navajo-inspired details, but Petty was often seen in his trademark snakeskin hat band with large rooster plume at the front.
“That was back in the 80s when they wore them feather hat bands,” he says. “They come out when that race car driver [Richard Petty] used to wear them. He always wore a big feather on the front of his hat and the whole hat band was a feather kind of deal.”
“I didn’t do the feather deal, because I thought it was cheesy. That kind of went out about 83′ or 84′, but I seen that race car driver the other day on TV and he still wears his.”
Although Stallings definitely remembers the trend, he is quick to confirm that he never sported this style in the show pen. As it turns out, some things really do stand the test of time.
“I wear the same hat right now that I wore back in the 60s; same hat, same crease,” he says. I never did any of that silly stuff.”
If you’re not familiar with Stallings personally, it might be helpful to know that he was there at the very inception of the group that came to be known as the American Paint Horse Association. This longtime cowboy was an APHA National Director for nearly 20 years, spent two terms as the Texas Paint Horse Club President, and has bred, trained, and shown horses for over fifty years. He also spent a considerable amount of time on the Texas rodeo circuit perfecting his calf roping skills.
“The first Paint Horse I ever showed was in 1967,” he says. “That mare’s name was Indigo’s Squaw. To be honest with you, names were more Indian back then. I showed her in the halter, when she was a yearling, at the World Show, and she was fifth or sixth. Then, I broke her to ride and showed her at some of the stock shows in Houston and San Antonio. I showed for eight or nine months. Then, I quit and went back to rodeoing. I started showing steadily in 73′ and have shown until today.”
“I rode in the rodeo for ten years when I was as kid, from about 16 to 26. I did not do the PRCA professional stuff, just the amateur. In the winter, you’d go to Houston, and there was a Mansfield rodeo every Saturday night. From about the first of April to the first of October, little rodeos would pop up everywhere and you’d never go more than 100 miles. Back then, every town had a little rodeo: Gainesville, Sherman, Denison, Frelsburg, Justin, and Pilot Point.”
Although feathered hat bands have certainly disappeared and the crown has downsized over the years (a good three inches in fact), the cowboys of the equestrian world like to add a little spice to the typical cowboy hat with some creative weave designs. Check out a few of these male style mavens below.