By Sierra Sekula
It’s that time of year where all the stock shows and rodeos are in full swing in their own big Texas fashion and the fashion is ever changing while somehow staying the same. When we think of the word “rodeo” or “cowboy”, next to horses and cattle, we likely picture something along the lines of the Marlboro Man or John Wayne with leather boots, blue jeans, a starched shirt, and a well-shaped hat. These staples of the rodeo wardrobe have been modified every year it seems, but we never fully stray from the charm of the classic rodeo get up.
From the pasture to the ATT Center, the boots might get fancier, but some things just don’t change. I had a chance to stop by Wheeler’s Western Outfitters and Boutique and met one of their amazingly talented hat fitters, Beth. Beth has been in the custom hatter business since 1979 and her work has topped heads across the State of Texas. Her father owned a hat store in San Antonio where he kicked back and the ladies of her family crafted hats for cowboys, businessmen, and every customer in between. Beth’s aunt also owned a hat shop in Pharr, Texas and she’s seen and shaped just about every hat style from here to over yonder.
The latest style may be newer to some, but Beth knows it’s just making a comeback. “Hat trends have changed over the years… the brim sizes, the shapes, they all make a return in the cowboy world.” And she couldn’t be more correct. Wheeler’s currently carries hats in dozens of colors, sizes, textures, and materials, but the custom shaping comes from behind the counter by human hands and is personal and unique each and every time. “Every customer’s needs are different.” she explained, “Cowboy hats were used on ranches to provide protection from the sun and elements.” While the hats may have come quite a way since the 1880’s, the methods used to shape them have not. Beth uses several tools to get her customer the “perfect” hat that fits like a glove including stretchers, shapers, and steam.
The customizing doesn’t stop there. While hats have long served a functional role across the world, they have a special place in our daily fashion as well. Wheelers has a variety of feathers, bands, and accessories to make your custom hat a true piece of art. “We can do custom shaping, ribbon, and décor as well as stitching.” Beth mentioned. She showed me a variety of gorgeous options she has to offer her customers as well as some hats she has completed for customers waiting to be picked up.
While Wheeler’s has stocked up on all of the latest brands such as Resistol, Twenty X, and American Hat Company, they expect them to sell out fast with more events making a comeback for 2022. If you have your rodeo tickets, it’s time to dust off those boots and get your western attire ready! From the barn or ranch, all the way to your seat in whatever row and section you snagged this year, be sure to shop local and let the team and Wheeler’s get your “western” on from head to toe!