Dating vintage stetson hats
There is a rule of thumb regarding dating soft felt hats (what we now call fedoras) at just a glance, which postulates that hats with taller crown plus narrower brims are from the 1920s to mid-1930s or so, whereas hat crowns slightly lowered but brims grew wider from roughly the late-1930s through the 1940s into the early-1950s.
From the mid-1950s onward to the present day, crowns typically tend to be lower and brims are very narrow.
Cavanagh had a clientele that was typically older and more conservative, fashion-wise, than the other brands.
As such, they often stuck to a style for decades, and thus one could find a Cavanagh hat from 1928 that looks nearly the same, externally, as one from 1960.
An essential part of Western culture, Stetsons are more than just a fashion statement - they are still relied upon by ranchers across the US and North America to protect them from the elements.
Stetson hats are made with only the highest quality materials, ranging from raffia straw hats in their outdoor collection, to crushable soft wool felt for autumn, and even American bison fur blends.
The second label below featuring a lot number is from the circa-1930 Derby, though this lot number appears to have far more in common with a "To Duplicate" or "Reorder" number. Photos from left to right, or top to bottom: "Cavanagh Make" debossment on the Derby, an Opera hat, the inside of the Derby, and a label from a circa-1930 Derby for comparison.
Each Stetson hat must pass a stringent inspection stage before being shipped out to their devoted customers.These types of handwritten notes don't show up on later hats, making this the third clue.As for Cavanagh factory labels, they were usually filled in by hand by someone at the factory, rather than printed by machine as with C&K and Dobbs hats from the same period, though later in the '30s they also became printed.Derbies could be finished with the Cavanagh Edge process without actually having a Cavanagh Edge, but examples do survive that also feature Cavanagh Edges, though they are hidden under the brim edge binding. From top, left to right, a circa-1929 Derby, an early-'30s Derby, a circa 1929/'30 Opera hat, a circa-1936 Derby, and a '33-'35 soft felt hat: Within this period, there are a few clues we can use to date a hat.The first clue is this use of a rather rare debossment, "Cavanagh Make," as seen below.