I found this dapper hat during one of my recent retro treasure hunts, and it was pretty much an instant buy. Seeing as how I've had a lifelong obsession with the history of Bat Masterson, it truly is a miracle that I haven't bought a Derby hat before now.
Growing up in Colorado, there was no shortage of Bat Masterson stories told to me by western history buffs, and history class teachers at school.
Bat Masterson was somewhat of a renaissance man, and succinctly an enigma to me as a young boy. A few hats he wore (no pun intended) were gambler, buffalo hunter, fisherman, army scout, sports writer, columnist for the 'New York morning Telegraph', and of course.. U.S. Marshall who helped tame the west.
Bat Masterson late 1800s
Rich tales about Masterson still abound in Colorado to this very day. He hung around with the con man "Soapy Smith" and the Soap Gang in Denver Colorado. He was a marshal in Trinidad, a sheriff in Pueblo, and roamed the Colorado boom towns of the era. Every story I ever took in, made this Colorado boy's imagination run wild. And.. whenever I come across a new tale I haven't yet heard, I feel the same exact way. Masterson was one of the most feared shooters in the west, drawing his gun from across his body, a cross-draw if you will.. rather than side-draw, which always fascinated me as well.
Gene Barry as Bat Masterson
Bat Masterson TV series 1958-1961
If the myths, stories, and grandiose tales weren't enough to fill my youthful mind, I discovered the Bat Masterson TV series during the early 80s, and it eventually became one of my favorite western series of all time. The series portrayed Masterson as a tough guy and gentlemen, who only used his six shooter as a last resort. In fact, he used his cane as a weapon more often than his gun in most episodes. As a kid I was amazed at how he gracefully wielded it, as if it were an extension of his arm. He would effortlessly use the gold handled cane to disarm and incapacitate his foes. I still love the show to this day, and currently have my DVR set up to record episodes whenever they air.
The Hollywood movies of recent years might persuade one to believe that Bat Masterson was a stand out with his Derby hat. However, when you take a closer look at hats that people of the time period wore, the Derby was immensely popular across all social classes. It's told that U.S. Marshall's like Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp considered most folks wearing large brimmed hats to be trouble makers. I always thought that to be ironic, since Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid all wore Derby's.
The Derby is definitely a fun and sharp looking hat with a ton of great history behind it. I'm not sure how often I'll be wearing this latest addition to my hat collection, but I have a sneaking suspicion I will be slipping it into the rotation on a regular basis.