By Paul Underwood
This fall, European audiences will get the opportunity to get up close with Stetson’s storied past and present thanks to a starring role in “Heads Up: Hats, Hoods, Hip Hop Caps,” a new exhibition on the history of headwear at the Bavarian National Museum in Munich.
A total of nine Stetson hats will be displayed, including a post-World War II-era Western hat, an ‘80s baseball cap, and a modern Stratoliner. These styles will sit alongside advertisements from the brand’s archives, all presented to contextualize Stetson’s role in the greater story of Western headwear. The display will be part of a larger 250-piece assortment, including 6th-century Egyptian hairnets and 14th-century sculpture, hats that once belonged to King Ludwig II and Otto von Bismarck, and even a teddy bear-studded hat from 1988 that once belonged to a German princess.
For Dr. Johannes Pietsch, who curated the exhibition, one personal highlight is a ‘50s-era Stetson fedora with an unexpected finishing touch: a colorful feather. “My idea was that in the 1950s, everyone was a little conservative. And boring,” he says. Instead, this hat is “really exciting. I wonder if that was something special or regular fashion at the time. I have the feeling that men in the States were maybe a little more daring than in Europe. I thought that was rather extraordinary.”
The relationship between Stetson and its European fans goes back to 1881 when the brand began exporting its Hüte to fashionable Deutschman. Before the French Revolution, Dr. Pietsch says, hats were “symbols of power and status” in Europe, and there were strict rules around who could wear what. Afterward, things became more nebulous, which meant that a more democratic hatmaker like Stetson could outfit workers and aristocrats.
In the exhibition, Stetson hats also help showcase the craft of millinery. “Stetson is known for the quality of its products,” Dr. Pietsch says. “That’s why we wanted to work together. This exhibition, with the pieces lent to us by Stetson, shows the tradition and the craftsmanship of hat making.”
If you don’t have a planned trip to Munich over the next six months, don’t worry—Stetson is offering a chance to win one for you and a companion to see the exhibition in person. The prize includes round-trip airfare from the airports below, one night at Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski, a private guided tour of the exhibition, a 6-course meal at the MUSEUM restaurant, and two modern Stetson hats of your choice (subject to availability).
To enter, follow these steps:
USA: Newark, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles; Germany: Munich & Frankfurt; UK: London; Spain: Barcelona; Italy: Milan; France: Paris; The Netherlands: Amsterdam; Denmark: Copenhagen; Sweden: Stockholm; Russia: Moscow