Hats Off to Houston’s The Hat Store

You’ve got your boots, jeans and pearl snap shirt.

Now you just need that perfect cowboy hat for rodeo.

And if you’ re like former President George H. W. Bush, Texas Governor Rick Perry, entertainers Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, Lyle Lovett, Merle Haggard, Clint Black, Alabama, Larry Gatlin, actor Dennis Weaver, former Astros Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman or the Boston Celtic’s Shaquille O’ Neal than you’ll head over to The Hat Store on Richmond Ave.

"My wife Liz and I founded The Hat Store in 1981," says owner Gary Cohen. "We’ve been here at the same location for 30 years."

But the family tradition for selling the iconic cowboy headwear dates back almost as far as the hats themselves.

The American horseman’ s hat began in 1865 when John B. Stetson starting turning out felt hats in the shape we still see today. And in 1915 Sam Silver — Cohen’ s grandfather — opened the American Hat Company in Houston.

"He taught my dad and my uncle how to make and renovate hats, and they taught me,” says Cohen. “ It was the greatest education I could have to go into this business. My dad made hats for Roy Rogers."

The family has also done hats for George Strait and Patrick Swayze over the years. But you don’t have to be famous to have a Hat Store hat. Anyone — for the price of $140 to $5,000 — can walk into the store and walk out with the perfect cowboy chapeau on the same day.

"That’ s what we do!” says Cohen. “All day long, everyday, we fit them, then hand shape and block and even trim the brims."

The Hat Store keeps a large selection in stock, any where from 800 to 1,500 hats in felt, straw and beaver. Straw hats sell best in the summer months but it’s the traditional felt that sells most from Labor Day through Easter and particularly during rodeo season when the store sells around 1,000 hats.

"As far as hat etiquette,” Cohen explains, “ it’s more correct to wear a felt hat in the evening all year round than a straw.

And while cowboy hats come in all shapes and sizes, the most popular The Hat Store sells is called The Hand, with a moderate size brim and what’ s known as the Cattleman Crown. But after choosing your shape, you need to pick a color, and there are 25 colors to choose from here; everything from jet black to what’s called Silver Belly, a pale shade often favored by country singing stars and rodeo riders.

Oh, but you’ re not done yet.

The Hat Store also has a very large selection of hat bands, ranging in price from $10 to $3,500 made from every thing from braided horsehair to alligator. And they can be decorated with feathers, silver conchos and even precious gems.

"I always tell folks you don’t need a hat band,” Cohen explains, “but a good one makes a good hat that much better."

And, in case you’re wondering, Cohen himself wears a 500X (the higher the X, the greater percentage of beaver), black hat with an alligator band studded with silver conchos and a gold leaf set with rubies.

Because if you own The Hat Store, you can wear the very best.

The Hat Store
5587 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX 77056

By: Marene Gustin