Be Proud of the Cowboy Hat: It is alright to be proud of western culture

I took it more than a little personal, the abandonment of Columbus Day and the way the media belittled Melania Trump’s choice of hats while on tour in Africa. Both of those issues were blatant attacks on western culture for which I happen to love, and I don’t take attacks on them lightly. On Melania’s hat several in the media stated that it looked too “colonial” and that she should have been more sensitive to blacks and their plight. And regarding Columbus Day, it was the attack of the Europeans that ruined the utopia of the Indian tribes that were encountered during 1492 and beyond. All things in western culture we have been told by modern-day academia was to cast aside and think of as a sickness. Well, to my observation, it is the opposite way of looking at things, it was western culture that has created opportunity for improvement for people of all races and is the best thing to ever have happened on planet earth. And nothing represents western culture more than the cowboy hat which I have worn all of my life. Anybody who wears a cowboy hat is making a bold statement about their appreciation of western culture, its inescapable. For instance, watch the following video of Sheriff Jones from Butler County, Ohio wear his hat on the way to the microphone to give a little speech. The addition of the cowboy hat says a lot about him and the culture he is functioning from.

I have worn a cowboy hat of some kind since my early days of grade school. I grew up on John Wayne and Clint Eastwood westerns and I thought everyone in the world wore them, until I went to school and learned otherwise. At that time some of the big progressive pushes that we know now were just getting started. It was out of fashion for a housewife to stay home with her children, they were made to feel bad if they did so. It was stunning how badly other women treated my mom because she was still a stay-at-home mom in the late 70s and early 80s. There was a great push by progressive society to get both parents out of the house and to turn over the raising of children to the state. My mom was one of the last hold outs and most of the kids in my classes wished she had been their mom, because they were children and wanted attention—and the public school couldn’t give it to them the way they wanted it. She volunteered at school a lot and all the kids knew her and wanted her to be their mother because she could give them attention.

Obviously, I was a very observational kid. The direction of society didn’t make much sense to me so I continued to wear my cowboy hats as a little kid just about everywhere I went. The more kids made fun of me over it the more I did it. I was always aware enough to understand that their behavior toward my hats were to put pressure on me to change my style of dress. It came to a point that I was determined to make a fashion statement all on my own, and I wore some form of a cowboy hat from my teenage years well into adulthood, actually up to the present. Those hats to me always represented a distinction, my vote for the sanctity of western culture. I never saw the cowboy with their guns and hats mounted on a bucking bronco to be the oppressors of the Indian. I never saw the headdress of some tribal leader to be equal to the cowboy and their big hats. The hat represented progress and human fulfillment, the Indian headdress the worship of nature and the limits of mother earth. The two sides were never meant to live together, their ideas were just too different from each other. For centuries the west and the east ran from each other until they collided in North America in the early 1700s ultimately and went to war over their differed philosophies.

My attire cost me, more than a few dates. Women are always the pace setters of social norms and even though I was dipping my feet into the waters of being a male model right out of high school my attractiveness could not erase the uncomfortable social pressure that dates felt when going out somewhere with me. I could have easily alienated the pressure by not wearing the hats and dressing more normally for what was expected in the late 80s, but I felt that would be selling myself out, so I never did it. I was most comfortable when wearing a cowboy hat so that’s what I did most of the time. I can say that as a young guy of about 24 to 25 when I was meeting with engineers and investors with some of Cincinnati’s most high-profile characters at the time I wore a brown western style trench coat and a very stylish cowboy hat all the time—to the point that it made people feel very uncomfortable. I had to work extra hard to get them to take me serious with that kind of attire which looked like it belonged in a 1870 western than in 1993—but it felt authentic so I kept doing it. I lived on the campus of the University of Cincinnati at the time and I dressed that way everywhere I went around that college. It was certainly out of pace with the rest of the world.

It took another twenty years before people stopped looking cross-eyed at me when I’d wear my cowboy hats into public. When you get to a certain age people stop caring what you do or how you dress. Once you are too old to run around with women, people no longer view you as a rival for their affections, so if you wear a cowboy hat out in public they just overlook you. But to me they were worth wearing and the pressure that came with them because I always had the feeling that it was my way of supporting western culture. And why not support western culture? If you didn’t accept the premise that all that came from Christopher Columbus was death and mayhem rather than the flowering of a new kind of society, then what else would you do? The Indian never built a railroad, they didn’t make guns or build buildings. They were superstitious nature lovers and what was great about that? Didn’t mankind have a mind to take the world and invent new things to expand life in unique ways? And who did that better in the history of the world but the western culture that founded North America as a free country with the idea of self-rule? And from that came this marvelous economy!

I still proudly wear my cowboy hats and I never regretted it. Hats are a purposeful statement about the values that the individual has. When you are the only one wearing one, it can feel awkward because it certainly sticks you out in a crowd, which is why most people don’t wear them. But at various periods of American development hats spoke about the kind of society we had and they were fashion statements that represented distinct values. And I don’t think any other form of fashion says more than when a person wears a cowboy hat. Doing so states that the person wearing it is proud of their western culture and that they reject the idea that eastern philosophies should take precedence in the realm of value. The criticism of Melania and Christopher Columbus has at its root the premise that western society should be abandoned—but for me and many others, it is the other way around. And the way to vote that sentiment is to wear the hat of western culture proudly and without apology. History knows the truth.

Rich Hoffman

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