There is no fixed meaning behind the affixing of a turkey feather to a cowboy hat. It is an old tradition that dates back to medieval times. Generally, a turkey feather in a cowboy hat is a decorative ornament designed to showcase one’s achievement and add some flair to one’s dressing.
Hats are a common head covering originally worn for protective purposes but now serving as a fashion statement. They are of different types, sizes, shapes, and colors. Examples of hats include the derby hat, fedora, cloche, and of course, the cowboy hats, etc.
Some hats have various appendages like medals, pins, precious stones, and buttons attached to them. Feathers are also a common attachment added to hats.
A feather is a soft plume found on the bodies of birds. Coming in different sizes and colors, they serve as a covering for the bird.
What Does it Mean to Put a Feather in a Hat?
Feathers are a common ornament attached to flowers. They are either attached singly or in colorful plumes. This act is believed to have started from time past when members of a community in adherence to their customers would add a feather to their headgear to commemorate each opponent they killed. This was common in the cultures of the Caufirs of Cabul, and the Meunitarris, who were native Americans found in Alberta, North Dakota, South Dakota, the Incas, and the Hungarians.
Moreover, in the past, hunters in Scotland and Wales who had succeeded in killing a game bird would pluck off a feather and attach it to their hat. This is still an existing custom there. European hunters also attached feathers to their hats as a form of camouflage while hunting games. This would make other animals see them as birds and feel less threatened. It is believed that this custom was spread by the French and adopted in places they visited, like the United States.
Feathers in hats were formerly worn to signify good health, prosperity, and achievements to show one’s societal status. As members of the military, they were worn to show a soldier’s unit to enable one to tell the country the wearer is from, thus making it easy to plan an easy means of approach. For instance, the Muskateers of France wore feathers in their hats to distinguish them from other soldiers.
Putting a feather in one’s cap today alludes to the achievement of a laudable feat by a person that he or she can be proud of. That is, attaining an unprecedented height or hitting hitherto unreached goals like getting a degree, earning a certification, or getting promoted. It is also a fashionable or decorative piece today.
Do Cowboys Put Feathers in Hats?
Yes, cowboys put feathers in their hats. The feathers were worn on special occasions so they would look good. They would attach the feathers in their hats before going for dances or rodeos. Sometimes, the feather could be a gift from a loved one that the cowboy is sentimentally attached to. However, there are records and pictures of this being done from the 19th century.
Cowboys are farm hands whose job is mainly taking care of cattle on farms in North America. They also perform other farm-related tasks like tending the cows and milking them, carrying out repairs, tilling the grounds, etc., and are known to participate in rodeos. They are usually portrayed wearing a western shirt, denim trousers, a bandana on the neck, special cowboy boots, and cowboy hats.
Turkey Feather in Cowboy Hat Meaning
Turkey feather in a cowboy hat is a medieval tradition that means victory and achievements of the cowboys in their ranch and hunting. Cowboys add turkey feathers in their cowboy hats as a decorative ornament to showcase their victories and achievements and to also add some flair to their dressing.
While wearing a feather in one’s hat is at the core, an act to symbolize a victory or act of courage, it holds a different meaning to cowboys.
Cowboys are presented in popular media as hardworking gentlemen who till the soil, ride horses and rear animals while having excellent fighting skills, and keep their women’s honor without their hat falling.
In reality, cowboys were lowlife vagabonds who never had a chance to dress well and look good. Even if such an opportunity came up, they would have nothing to wear. Those days, cowboys would never wear their cowboy hats without their cowboy boots. The hats were more practical than a piece of fashion, they were designed to keep the head warm and eyes protected during winter. In summer, the hat served as protection from the sun, preventing sunburn.
With no opportunity to wear finery and no finery to speak off, cowboys would pick up feathers shed from birds and add to their hats to give them an unusual look. Turkeys being the most popular farm animal, usually had their feathers used in such circumstances. They presented a cheap and affordable means for the cowboys to look nice.
Where Does the Feather Go on a Cowboy Hat?
Cowboy hats are hats with a wide brim and high crown popularly associated with cowboys in popular culture. John Stetson first made the modern cowboy hat. These hats are made of felt, straw or leather and serve as a way to show the cowboy’s unique identity while protecting him from the harshness of the sun, snow, wind, rain, and dust.
Traditionally, whenever a man adds feathers to his hat, it would be on the left-hand side of the hat’s crown. Sometimes, the feathers can be wound around the crown of the hat like a rope.
How to Put a Feather in a Cowboy Hat
Feathers in a hat were originally a means to showcase achievements in the hunting field or the fields of battle but are now a way to show one’s sartorial uniqueness.
1. The Use of Glue
One of the most common methods of attaching a feather to a hat is through the use of glue. It has to be the glue of excellent quality that can melt and stay firm. Glue is popular because it is usually colorless and will not cause a clash between the hat and one’s outfit. It will just fade into the background. Superglue should not be used because it is not flexible and will cause the feathers to break off instead of swaying gracefully with the wind.
2. The Use of Pin
A hat pin is another way to add a feather to a hat. They are firm and long, so the feathers will not fall at the most inconvenient time, causing confusion.
3. Sewing the Feather to the Hat
One can also sew the feathers to the hat. This should be done carefully so the feather stem doesn’t break off, nor the filaments make a mess on the hat. It might be best to use an invisible thread or a thread that matches the feather and hat.
3. Attaching the Feather to the Hatband
Most cowboy hats come with a hatband that is wound around the crown of the hat. Fathers can be added to the hatband, and there are different ways to do so. If the hatband has an open weave, the feather can just be stuck through it. If it is tight, the feather can be inserted between the band and crown. If not, the feather can be sewn onto the hatband using either an invisible thread or a thread with a matching color.
4. Use of Feather Aglet
One can also use a feather aglet to attach the feather to the hatband. An aglet is a small sheath made of plastic or metal with a hole at its end to pass things through. The feather can be fixed in that opening, after which the aglet is pinned to the hat.
Feathers in a cowboy hat have a more ornamental and fashionable purpose than a commemorative and practical purpose in today’s world. Wearing feathers might be frowned upon by animal rights activists now. So, it might be best to gauge the sociocultural climate of a place before wearing a feather.
One must use the right feather so as not to offend people who have a sentimental attachment to the birds in a particular area. Apart from attaching feathers to one’s hat, there are better, hygienic, and environmentally friendly ways to celebrate a win. The wearer must strive to ensure that applicable hat etiquette is followed.