Now that we've seen the trailers for the two new Westerns coming out of Hollywood (True Grit, Cowboys & Aliens), I have to get something off my chest: the hats in both are dreadful, at least on the leads, Jeff Bridges' Raymond Chandler styled chapo in True Grit and Daniel Craig's in C&A. Both are wearing twentieth century style fedoras and it really grinds me. Here's the catch. I don't blame Hollywood, I blame us. Yes, you and me. The buffs and re-enactors who instituted this hard and fast rule, that the cowboy hat with the winged brim did not exist in the Old West. The reality is that in the twentieth century, as Westerns proliferated, everyone eventually starts wearing that style of hat, and that is ridiculous as well, but now we have gone too far the other way. And while it's true, you don't see cowboys wearing that style of hat in the photos of the 1870s and 80s, BUT, you certainly do see hats with swept up sides on all sorts of characters in the Old West photos from the same era.
We have gotten so ridiculous about this that the consultants to movies (in most cases dudes from our tribe) have successfully limited and thwarted the styles of hats costumers can sport in a modern Western. This has resulted in two developments: costumers have resorted to big brimmed hats with the front up, or at least flat with undented crowns, and in many cases these are worn by everyone. This too, is only half right (see Billy the Kid's only known photo), and when they can't have a so-called cowboy hat, they resort to, well, Elliot Ness fedoras.
What we have here is one cliche trying to get away from another cliche and it's ruining Westerns.
Just to prove my point, I am going to run a photo of "cowboy styled" hats in old photographs, every day, until I run out. You say there are no photos of winged cowboy styled hats in the real Old West?
Okay, What About This?
There are at least five hats that I see in this New Mexico scene that would be banned from a Western movie set by Hat Nazi consultants (like you and me).
I say, cease and desist! Let Westerns breath a little bit. Let's get back to the fun of it.
"If everybody is wearing a big hat, ain't nobody wearing a big hat."