Meanwhile, Back At Old Joe's Barroom

So, I was bopping along with my headphones on, and I got a concept stuck in my craw:

When I die, want you to dress me in straight laced shoes
A box back coat and a Stetson hat;
Put a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain
So the boys know I died standin’ pat.

Louis Armstrong’s version of St. James Infirmary

Which struck me, as I’d just finished listening to:

“Stagger Lee,” said Billy,
“I can’t let you go with that.
“You have won all my money,
“And my brand-new Stetson hat.”

Lloyd Prices’ Stagger Lee

While I’ve a long familiarity with Stetsons, I hadn’t realized they were once considered a status symbol.

Stetson produced a very expensive hat. The Cowboy riding the range wearing that “Boss of the Plains” hat showed the world that he was doing well. “Within a decade the name John B. Stetson became synonymous with the word “hat,” in every corner and culture of the West.” – wikipedia

An easy enough concept, even for a city dweller. In my youth it was high-end sneakers, and, in my adulthood, I know plenty of folks who drive cars as a mark of status, and not as a device that transports them from location to location.

The thing is, Stetsons were obviously originally marketed to cowboys – who exactly were they attempting to impress, out on the range?

An interesting side-note:

According to Win Blevins’ Dictionary of the American West (p388), the term “ten-gallon” has nothing to do with the hat’s liquid capacity, but derives from the Spanish word gal√≥n (braid), ten indicating the number of braids used as a hat band. – wikipedia