This circa 1880 photograph of the first grocery store to open in Lyons, Colorado, speaks to an uncomfortable truth: Most people in the Old West did not wear Stetsons. As much as we’d like to imagine the citizens of every frontier boomtown moseying down wooden boardwalks in wide-brimmed, high-crowned, beaver felt hats, they were impractically large, even for the broad streets of a mining town like Lyons. Anyway, most respectable men would rather bring a touch of Eastern class to the frontier.
Each of the gentlemen leaning against the counter on the right sports a derby (aka “bowler”), the most popular hat style of the period nationwide, even if it looks a bit goofy today. The narrow-brimmed hats worn by patrons to the left of the aisle may have proved effective at keeping the sun out of their eyes, at least in town, while the man with the cane sports a wide-brimmed version of the cowboy style — unbent and tilted back out of the face. A boy behind the counter and the young man in the aisle wear no hats at all, which was typical for their ages, but a grown man of any class was expected to wear his hat at all times, even indoors, though not at church, during mealtimes or to bed.
The fellow seated in the chair at the center cuts the oddest figure of all. His headgear is particularly unusual, as most dogs in the Old West (as in the New West) went without hats and certainly weren’t in the habit of smoking corncob pipes, particularly with their ears.