GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4)– The World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo relies on Coloradans to make the best custom cowboy hats in the region. Cheyenne Frontier Days officially works with Greeley Hat Works for their hats, which are worn by rodeo queens and executives.
For more than 100 years, Greeley Hat Works has supplied custom hats for customers. Chief Vision Officer Trent Johnson said he partnered with Cheyenne Frontier Days after they were regularly coming to him to repair their previous hats.
“We make hats out of pure beaver. That makes them thinner, lighter weight, more weather resistant, more durable and they will last longer,” Johnson told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.
Johnson’s team uses special tools to measure the exact size of a customer’s head. Then, a week-long creation process begins.
“The cowboy hat is the most iconic part of the western way of life,” Johnson said. “It’s an extension of their personality.”
Each custom-made hat is hand-made, using machines built decades ago.
Following a steaming process, a 1950s “finger blocker” is used to form portions of the inside of the hat. From there, the hats are hand-sanded.
“We have about six-to-eight hours in each hat,” Johnson said.
While the total time of physical work in to each hat six-to-eight hours, it takes a week to complete most. They are heated and cooled to assure proper shape and quality.
The Cheyenne Frontier Days hats are then customized with the official rodeo logo, and the future-owner’s name. A staff member gets a leather sweatband, and stamps the logo and name in red ink on to the band.
From there, the hats are transferred to a 1920s sewing machine, where the sweat bands are attached to the inside of the hat alongside a custom rodeo satin liner.
Custom hats for other customers typically run between $400 and $1,200 at Greeley Hat Works. While some may see that as expensive, Johnson joked the price was still cheaper than getting skin cancer due to sun exposure.
Cheyenne Frontier Days starts on July 19 and runs through July 28.