John B. Stetson was the seventh of 12 children, born into a millinery family learning the trade at an early age (his father Stephen owning the No Name Hat company) so it would go to reason he would eventually own a hat business, but the success of ‘Stetson’ and it’s place as a world renown house hold name intrinsically linked to romantic notions of the ‘wild west’ is entirely his own creation.
Receiving no formal education being schooled at home and working in the family business John B. was diagnosed with tuberculosis in his early twenties, his life prospects were short and grim. Leaving the family business in Orange, New Jersey for the warmer climes seeking adventure and to explore the untamed lands of the American West this would shape John B. future and the success of ‘Stetson’
Joining an expedition to Pikes Peak, the highest summit of the front range of the Rocky Mountains he became aware of the unsuitable headwear favoured by the expeditions men, along the route he fashioned a hat far more practical for the conditions of the trail, so much so that an accompanying bullwhacker (cattle driver) bought it off his head for the princely sum of a $5 gold piece and so the first Stetson was sold.
The hat had a high crown for insulation, a wide brim for shade and protection against the elements, and was made out of felted beaver fur, which was waterproof, lightweight, durable and could be turned to a variety of uses. One admirer described the practicalities; "It kept the sun out of your eyes and off your neck. It was an umbrella. It gave you a bucket (the crown) to water your horse and a cup (the brim) to water yourself. It made a hell of a fan, which you need sometimes for a fire but more often to shunt cows this direction or that."
Returning from the expedition in 1865 he hired a room in Philadelphia and went about creating his own hat business, struggling to compete with other hatters in the city until in 1869 he aimed his business at an untapped market of the west and began recreating the style of hat he invented on the trail which would be known as the “Boss of the Plains” the hat was an instant success and the success of Stetson was sealed with the growth of the West.
When Stetson reached it’s centenary in 1965 the current CEO said “…It is, I think, possible to say without too great exaggeration that America grew up under a Stetson. Today our business is so truly world-wide that there can be but few corners of the Globe where the name Stetson is not known and honoured” in 2015 the company turned 150 and those words still ring true, though over the years the company has diversified making many different styles of hat, from fedoras and trilbys to trapper hats and of course the enduringly popular newsboy caps we stock
The company's humble origins and name still stretch back into the past to conjure up images of cowboys and dusty plains.