Hats shape the rodeo performer
Nevada Appeal News Service
FALLON – Clothes may make the man, but a hat determines the personality of cowboys and cowgirls when they’re performing in the arena or working on the ranch.
Such is the case for the 500 cowboys and cowgirls competing in this week’s Silver State International Rodeo at the Churchill County Fairgrounds.
“For the cowboy, the hat stays in style,” said Bud Openshaw, owner of Openshaw Saddlery in Fallon. “The hats haven’t changed much in 100 years. I saw a photo of cowboys from around the turn of the century, and their hats look like today’s.”
Openshaw said cowboys and cowgirls prefer different hats for different occasions, but the region of the country may determine the type of cowboy hat people wear.
“In Nevada, you’ll see more buckaroo hats with flat rims and flat tops,” said Openshaw, who can reshape and fix hats in less than one hour. “Go to Arizona and you’ll find the big brim with sides tipped up.”
Openshaw, though, said rodeo performers have a style all their own.
“I can tell a rodeo cowboy by the shape of his hat,” Openshaw said, explaining how many performers prefer the cattleman’s crease on top.
Also, the way cowboys and cowgirls wear their hats usually indicates their personalities.
“Some may wear the hat on the back of their head or to the side or tipped in front toward their eyes,” he said.
Openshaw said cowboys will shape their hats to their personality. Even if a cowboy has 20 hats, Openshaw said each hat will be similar.
Judging from the contestants attending the SSIR, Openshaw said every region appears to be divided 50/50 between wearing straw or felt hats.
During the past several years, Openshaw said he has noticed a preference for straw hats made from palm leaf.
Styles differ with many of the SSIR contestants.
Bo Segerman of Buckly, Wash., said he likes to wear a hat with a wide rim and square tops, but Jade Smith of Walla Walla prefers both straw and felt hats.
“If the weather is hot, I’ll wear a straw hat,” he said. “If it’s raining, then a felt hat.”
But bull rider Carl Bissonette of Port Angeles said he prefers a beaver felt rolled up a little in the front.
“I don’t want a hat that’s boring like everyone else’s,” he said.
Many contestants from Alberta, Canada, like felt hats.
“I prefer a felt hat with a square top and one that is firm. That’s how we do in Canada,” said Melissa Grover.
Austin Vanderlee, also from Alberta, said black felt hats give the cowboy more protection.
“I don’t like straw hats,” he said. “They don’t last.”
Karysa Perez of Reno stood out with her brightly colored hat.
“I like a red hat. It’s colorful,” she said. “But in the arena, I will wear whatever hat stays on.”
She said she prefers felt hats that have a front square and are rolled on the side.
“I don’t like straw hats. They don’t stay on, but my mom has had her straw hat for 10 years,” Perez said.
Spencer Oesterling of Carson City said as a bull rider, he likes a wider rim in the front and back. However, Byron Kreck of Dayton said he prefers the buckaroo hat, which he says is more in style in Northern Nevada.
“A black hat in this weather is really hot,” he said.
Idaho cowboy Jake Ruby said straw wears better in hot weather.
“It (the hat) bends a lot easier, and it’s easier to clean and reshape it,” said Ruby, who likes a wide brim hat with sharp corners.
But Openshaw can’t fault the cowboy hat’s practicality, especially with sunny days and triple-digit temperatures baking the region.
“The brim keeps cowboys protected from the sun. They’ll be working all day, and there’s no place for them to get away,” he said. “This is the cowboy’s awning, the protection from the elements.”