In past generations, people wore hats more often than is fashionable in modern America, with many men and women wearing them almost anytime they left the house. Hats have never completely gone away of course, but with the exception of baseball style caps, it's not common to see men wearing them as much as they did several decades ago. Times change, but a good hat style still looks good today, and more people are rediscovering the appeal of a head covering that their grandfathers wouldn't have considered leaving the house without. While it's true that even large chain stores like Target carry a small selection of men's hats these days, a person looking for something specific or of higher quality might consider visiting one of the following local businesses.
4. Cavender's Boot City - Various locations
Cowboy hats have never gone away in the Houston area. This is Texas after all, and there are still quite a few residents who like to wear what must be one of the most iconic hat styles in the world. Whether worn for function or as a fashion accessory, cowboy hats are probably right behind baseball caps as far as hat popularity goes. There are several locations of the large retailer in Houston and I chose to visit the one located on the Katy Freeway just outside of Beltway 8. The large section set aside for cowboy hats is a good place to start for any man or woman looking for one, and they carry a large selection of straw and felt hats ranging in price from under $50 to around $1,000. I discovered the answer to a personally mystery - my own hat size, which is 7-1/4, and also learned that straw hats are fashionable during this time of the year, being more appropriate for hotter weather, with felt hats being in fashion during the colder months. That makes sense, but was news to a hat newcomer such as myself. I also found that hats have their own version of thread counts, and the more numerous the fibers in their material, the better the assumed quality and the higher their price.
Cavender's had plenty of cowboy hat styles to choose from, and is a good place to shop for one. I ended up buying a Resistol straw hat for myself. The store can also fit the needs of men and women of any age who want to shop for western wear.
3. The Hat Store - 5587 Richmond Ave., Houston , 77056
According to owner Gary A. Cohen, his family has been in the Houston hat business for a century.
"The American Hat Company was founded in Houston in 1915 by my grandfather and my dad, and my family worked there for years. This particular store my wife and I opened in 1981, and it's just been a great store. We've been known for hand shaping and fitting western hats, as well as carrying all sorts of felt and straw hats. We carry a lot of really fine hat brands, and don't really carry wool hats. The types of hats we sell are fur felt, and are pretty much impervious to water so you can wear them in the rain or snow."
The Hat Store also has other services that make the hat buying experience as painless as possible for its customers.
"We do a personal fit with every hat to get the hat to fit the person's face, their build, the width of their brow, and all those things. We just really want everyone to be smiling when they leave."
The Hat Store carries quality hats ranging in price from around $46 all the way up to $5,000 for the very highest quality felt hats, and the shop also carries fine hat bands and other accessories. While western hats are heavily featured in the shop, The Hat Store also carries many other styles.
"We have a really big selection. You can do a dress hat with a fedora, and those are great for summer wear. You can get a fedora called a breaker, and that's a very very popular hat. They're extremely comfortable and as light as a feather. You honestly won't hardly even notice that it's on your head."
The Hat Store has a wall of photos of the celebrities who've been customers at the store over the years, and it looks like a Who's Who of famous people. Patrick Swayze, Ray Childress, Ben Johnson, ZZ Top, and many others have been customers.
"We've done Lyle Lovett's hats for many many years, since he was in high school in fact. ZZ Top, we've done Billy and Dusty's hats for 40 years. We did the hat for Clint Black the day he went to audition. He'd been playing clubs around Houston and Katy, and came by beforehand. We did a nice looking black felt hat, which we cut the brim down a little bit, and put a hand braided horsehair band on it with a little sterling silver on the side. He went to his audition and just killed it."
The Hat Store is an exceptional place to get a quality hat, and customer satisfaction is backed by a family who has been in the business in Houston for 100 years.
2. Wolf's Department Store and Pawn Shop - 2701 Dowling Street Houston 77004
Wolf's has been serving the Houston area for decades from its location near downtown. It's a full service clothing store, featuring everything from suits to exotic dress shoes, as well as jewelry and other items. I noticed guitars hanging on a wall up a flight of stairs while I was visiting the shop.
Wolf's definitely has a large selection of hats and caps, including brands like Kangol and Stetson, and is a great place to look at a wide range of hats ranging from casual to fancy or classic.
1. Miller Hats - 11110 Bammel North Houston Rd. 77066
When I visited Miller Hats I was expecting something different. Their website made me expect an enormous storefront somewhere, because their selection is so large. When I arrived at the shop's North Houston location, and followed a sign down a driveway that led me to a metal building, I was a little worried from the modest appearance of the place. Stepping inside, any fears I might have had vanished, the nondescript outside hides a very nice interior that's packed with a wide range of hats to fill nearly any need. I spoke to the owner about what makes Miller Hats a special place.
"The history of the hat store goes back to 1894 and I bought the shop in 1995 and have owned it since then. We specialize in dress hats, but carry all sorts of hats including styles from movies. We sell hats from "Apocalypse Now," John Wayne films, reenactment hats, "Indiana Jones," "Tombstone," "Billy Jack," old west styles, uniform hats, all sorts. We have stingy brims which are very popular, pork pie dress hats, tear drop, Humphrey Bogart, you name it." And looking around, one thing is clear - Miller Hats should be a place to visit for anyone looking for a good hat, particularly if they're looking for a nice dress hat or something to accurately complete a costume from a favorite film.
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Hats have never completely disappeared from men's style, but they're much more fashionable again after years of not being as prominent, and any man or woman interested in finding the perfect hat, be it a cowboy style, a fedora, or something else, should consider stopping by to browse the extensive selections that these local hat shops have on hand.