"If you're not the Father of All Hat Acts," a friend once said to Hank Williams Jr., referring, in Nashville parlance, to country crooners in Western headgear, "I'd like to know who is." Ol' Bocephus begged to differ. "I'll tell you somebody," he said. "Daddy." He was, of course, right as country rain. Hank Williams Sr.—the late, oh-so-lonesome, onetime king of country music—wore his snappy, short-brimmed white Stetson like a crown. And ever since, any honky-tonkin' singin' cowboy worth his whiskey has followed suit. Herewith, the skinny on some favorite lids:
COLOR: Black, of course
STYLE: A felt custom job by the Standard Hat Works in Waco, Tex.
HOW HE SHOPS: "Lots of times I like the $50 hat better than the $400 one."
IF HIS HAT COULD TALK: "Get a haircut."
GARTH BROOKS BRAND: Stetson
HOW TO GARTHIZE A HAT: Dunk it in water, shape the brim by hand, wear it on your head until it dries.
SIZE: 7 5/8
IF HIS HAT COULD TALK: "God, I really just don't understand why this is happening."
GEORGE STRAIT BRAND: Resistol
STYLE: Of his 30 wide-brims, his favorite is a $300 deep-black beaver.
IF HIS HAT COULD TALK: "I hope it never has to say, 'Put me on the stretcher, your head's gettin' too big.' "
MARTY BROWN BRAND: Unknown
STYLE: Old and beat-up
HOW HE BROKE IT IN: Bound the brim with a necktie, held it over a steaming lea kettle to give it a "mule kick" crease in back and stiffened it with hair spray.
IF HIS HAT COULD TALK: "Drunks have thrown up on me."
TRACY LAWRENCE FAVORITE STYLE: A custom, $600 beaver pelt
WHY HE WEARS HATS: "My hair don't do what I want it to. I just put on my hat, and nobody knows the difference."
IF HIS HAT COULD TALK: "It's seen a lot of wild things; it better not say nothing."
RICKY VAN SHELTON BRAND: A wide-brimmed straw Resistol
WHY HE LOVES IT: "I feel naked without my hat. I think everybody should wear hats. I've had women try to trade me their undergarments for my hat. I wouldn't go for that."
IF HIS HAT COULD TALK: "Take me home, fool."
ALAN JACKSON BRAND: A $100 Stetson
WHY HE LOVES IT: "I wore it to every hellhole dive across the country and to the White House."
MAINTENANCE SECRET: Cleans it with cornmeal
WHY HIS HAT HAS CLAMMED UP: "I'm work in' on this song: 'If This Old Hat Could Talk."
CHARLIE DANIELS STYLE: A custom-made buckaroo block
WHY HE THREW A MAN THROUGH A BATHROOM DOOR: "I was walkin' through this hotel, and a guy told me my hat looked funny."
IF HIS HAT COULD TALK: "Take better care of me."
HANK WILLIAMS JR. COLOR: Black, always
BRAND: Handmade by a Montana woman friend
IF HIS HAT COULD TALK: "Please don't sit on me. There's nothin' uglier than a nice custom-made hat that someone has just sat on."
TRAVIS TRITT FAVORITE HAT: A motorcycle helmet
WHY HE AND MARTY STUART HAVE EMBARKED ON A "NO HATS" CONCERT TOUR: "No one should wear a cowboy hat unless he feels comfortable sitting on a horse. I'm more comfortable on a Harley."
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