THE ART OF HAT SHAPING
At the counter in the back of Wheeler’s Western Outfitters stands , working away on his newest hat. Juan is more than just the local hat guy, he is an artist and a widely-known hat shaper who many refer to as the best hat shaper in the Texas Hill Country.
So how does one find their calling in hat shaping you might ask?
FOR THE LOVE OF HATS.
At the age of 16, Juan began working at American Hat Company. That’s where his love of hat shaping began. “I started by sweeping the floors in the loading department and just figured out how the hat’s were being made,” Juan said.
By 18, Juan was learning how to shape hats at the factory. “It is a very interesting process and a lot of people don’t realize the logistics and amount of money it takes to make a single hat,” Juan explained.
“I learned from some of the best hat shapers in the world and they taught me that you have to kill your customers with kindness and develop a knack to think ahead and judge what your customers are looking for. I want them to leave saying, ‘Man, that guy knows how to shape a hat!’” Juan said.
“It’s amazing what a hat does to a person. A person changes their demeanor totally when they put on a hat… and that is one of the many reasons I love my job,” said Juan.
When asked if he has a favorite hat he has shaped, Juan simply replied saying, “all of my hats are my favorites, whether it is a straw hat or a felt hat. Some hats have a different color or shade, but the shape is always according to what the customer wants.”
CUSTOM HAT SHAPING MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
People have come from all over to get Juan to shape their hats. His furthest customer has come all the way from New York. “There is no boundary as far as headwear goes. You have your hard working wage earners up to your chairman of the board and they will come in and ask questions. They want to know what shape will look good and what color they should wear,” Juan said.
He explained that the group with the most discriminating taste are, “your professional rodeo cowboys are your pickiest because they want a hat that is going to look and represent the integrity of a cowboy. They have that niche on how they want their hat to look.”
Juan has gotten the opportunity to shape hats for some incredible people. “I am privileged to say I do the hats for some of the gold buckles (referring to PRCA World Champion Cowboys) : Rich Skelton, Scott Snedecor, and Junior Nogueira.” In fact, he even shaped the hat Mr. Skelton wore when he was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame recently.
“Juan takes a lot of pride in his job. Every time he shapes a hat for me he is very consistent and he goes the extra mile to make sure that you like it,” Skelton, who is an eight-time world champion, said.
The most expensive hat Juan has ever shaped is an Old Resistol Legend that is worth about $10,000. It was a gift for a prince in Asia.
Juan loves working at Wheeler’s Western Outfitters. “One of my customers told me that Mr. Wheeler needed a hat man. I approached Mr. Wheeler and that same evening he hired me. I have been here going on four years now,” Juan said. He went on to add that he loves working at Wheeler’s because it is a “specialty store with seasoned employees that have the product knowledge and know the customers needs. It’s more personal customer service than just a western store.”
He is loved by all of his customers. “I know when I hand a hat to Juan, I leave Wheeler’s exactly with what I had in mind. He is one of the best,” three-time world champion, Scott Snedecor said.
MORE THAN JUST A HAT.
Keith Mundee, President of American Hats once told Juan something that he believes to be very unique. He told him that a hat is more than just an object, “a hat is an heirloom that is left for generations to come.” Juan knows the truth in this statement as he still wears his grandfathers work hats.
However, some view hat making as a dying trade, but Juan does not agree with this. “The hat has always epitomized the freedom of the American spirit. Back in the 1800’s and 1900’s you had little hat shops everywhere. Up to the 1950’s you could go to downtown Manhattan and in every building there was a hat factory. That has disappeared,” explained Juan. He went on to add that it is “not a dying trade, but you have to have an appreciation and a love for the art.”
When asked about his overall time shaping hats, Juan said, “it has been a very long but great journey for me.”
Next time you or a loved one is in need of hat, make sure to stop into Wheeler’s and visit the hat counter in the back. You will be sure to be treated with excellent customer service and given a hat that will turn heads.
IT ALL STARTS WITH A GOOD HAT
Wheeler’s has a top-notch hat selection for both women and men. They know that hat wearers all have a preference, so they make sure they stock different styles that include various colors, sizes and brim lengths to best fit each customer.
Not a cowgirl hat-wearing gal? Make sure you check out their stock women’s fashion hats from Charlie 1 Horse, which will take any outfit to the next level in style.