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Widely imitated, never replicated, since 1937

Every now and again, form and function intersect to create something somehow both useful and beautiful, purpose-built yet iconic. The Coca-Cola bottle. The denim work shirt. The Porsche 911. To that list we would add: The Stetson Open Road, a style so classic and time-tested that it’s hard to believe there was ever a world where it didn’t exist.

The hat, with its western crown and shorter, town-friendly brim, dates back to 1937, a time when the open road itself was a relatively new concept. Route 66 was just over a decade old, and the top-of-the-line V-8 in the latest-model Ford cranked out a whopping 85 horsepower. Unlike today’s sturdy, hard-wearing Open Road, the 1937 iteration was more of a lightweight, western-inflected fedora.

It wasn’t until 1948 that the Open Road as we know it—with its iconic cattleman crown, narrow grosgrain ribbon, and that perfectly proportioned brim turned up just so at the edge—entered the world. It was an instant success, thanks in part to a marketing campaign that blanketed Texas and other Western states, proclaiming the hat’s versatility as a dressy option at home in town or country, in the West or back East. (“Almost as popular on the Avenue as they are on the Open Road,” as one ad later put it.)

Advertisment in The Saturday Evening Post, 1950
Advertisment, 1952
Advertisment in Time, February 1953

Before long, the Open Road was adorning some of the most famous heads in the land. Presidents in particular seemed to relish the style—Harry S. Truman was an early adopter, as was Dwight Eisenhower, both of whom wore it with a suit. 

Lyndon B. Johnson’s affinity for the Open Road inspired both a Stetson ad campaign (touting “The L.B.J. Look”) and a wave of knockoffs in the mid-’60s. (You can still buy your own—authentic—Open Road at the LBJ Ranch near Johnson City, Texas.) Winston Churchill wore one; so did country music legends like Hank Williams and maverick Hollywood


directors like John Huston. The hat made memorable cameos in Smokey and the BanditFrom Dusk Till DawnSeabiscuit and The Royal Tenenbaums. Recently, it’s been seen on modern creative visionaries like Wilco founder Jeff Tweedy, Jamie Foxx, Leon Bridges and Justin Theroux, who partnered with us to develop a special limited edition Open Road, in conjunction with the crew at Ray’s Hometown Bar in NYC, last fall. 

Justin Theroux and Carlos Quirarte, the actor/writer and NYC scenemaker behind Ray’s NYC celebrate the Open Road 6X “Raygular Edition” release.

Before long, the Open Road was adorning some of the most famous heads in the land.

For Spring/Summer ‘24, a new campaign “Character Driven” featuring the legendary Lyle Lovett and a coast-to-coast collective of creative spirits proves that while the Open Road is rich with history, its story is still being written by the diverse cast of characters who wear it—and the character that drives them.

Legendary musician Lyle Lovett and emerging artist Emily Ferguson for The Open Road “Character Driven” campaign.