Felt vs. Straw
Posted by Glenn Orms on
Hats were created to be a protective head covering. The elements dictated the materials used in various climates and conditions.
Obviously in colder conditions warmth was the main concern. Hotter or more sunny climates & seasons required protection from the sun. The same rules apply today. As the seasons change, or not in some areas, so does the felt to straw and back again. Although there is a group that will argue the facts of wearing a felt for all occasions.
Felting is basically the matting of fur, wool or hair with water and or other liquids & chemicals to make a pliable format that can be molded and shaped into various shapes and sizes - the result being a sold form that holds in heat generated from the head thus keeping you warm and dry. Beaver fur has always been the gold standard for excellence and durability. It's burred long fibers, combined with it's natural oils, give it a nice tight mesh and resilience to weather and wear. Hare (Rabbit) is combined with beaver to make a wide range of offerings in quality. 10%, 20%, 50% and 80% blends are most common and range in price accordingly.
100% Hare is probably the most common felt in the Cowboy world, simply because, being a more readily available fur, the price tag is more affordable yet still produces a durable winter hat. Usually marked, but not always, 7X designates an all fur felt.
Wool is also a common felted fiber. Shearing of wool makes it much more available and sustainable, which in turn cuts the cost to as much as 1/4 t of a fur felt hat. Unfortunately wearing a wool hat can be similar to wearing a wool sweater in the rain. It doesn't make the best choice for the hard wear & tear and most true Cowboys subject their hats to. Plus it's hard to find a Cowboy that wants to have much of anything to do with a sheep But for an occasional hat wearer it provides an affordable and long lasting hat that is hard to distinguish from a fur felt. https://thecowlot.com/search?type=product&q=wool+hat
Straws were originally woven strands of straw or other plant fibers to make a more cooler, lighter weight & tolerable head covering in the heat. Today the majority of straw hats are woven out of a high density paper resembling straw cut into strips . Palm leafs and other plant fibers like Jute are also woven or sewn together to make hats. Unfortunately, as with most anything hand crafted, the art fading. The only places left in the world to get enough hand weavers to meet the demand of todays market are located in the far East. Mainly China. As you can imagine this has drastically effected the price of hand woven straws. $100 to $175 is not uncommon to find on today's price tag. The original Panama straws can be found upwards of $600. Fortunately the new Shantung fibers used for the high density paper is stronger than true straw and can be either hand woven or machine woven. Machine woven Bangora or Shantung straw can be found in price points from $50 to $100.
So no matter your choice, each can be formed into a shape that suits your lifestyle. That is provided you can find a professional hat shaper. Or maybe you like to shape your own.
We are working hard at the Cow Lot to give you that service. Our hat shapers range from 19-85 years of age. Each generation is passing along the skill to the next perpetuating the art so that you, your children and their children's children can find the hat that's brings out the Cowboy that lives in all of us.
At the Cow Lot, it's not just a hat. It's a lifestyle.