A head for hats: This Ada custom maker makes them custom fitted for cowboys

Great State
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ADA, Okla. (KFOR) — An old friend dropped by Cindy Bowling’s back porch Thursday morning, old hat in hand.

“People’s heads change,” she laughs.

“It’s time,” says longtime customer Larry D. Lee. “It’s getting a little worn out.”

The last time he was here on business was 15 years ago to get sized for a custom felt hat, one that would fit his head like it was made just for him.

“Very good hat,” he states.

Bowling explains, “Most of my customers are ranchers, or trainers, or cowboys. Just people who wear hats a lot.”

Bowling rode and ranched for years but never did get used to store-bought hats.

She says, “They give me a headache in the front.”

When she finally had one custom-made that was it.

“Somebody that’s hard to fit,” explains Cindy, “when they get a hat that fits, it’s just like you’ve made them so happy.”

It’s been the better part of 20 years since Cindy found the odd equipment, the steamers and pouncers, you need to make a custom piece of cowboy head-gear.

“Heat and steam are what makes the fibers pull together,” she says. “There are a lot more steps than people think.”

She orders these formless bodies made of beaver felt.

Then, over a period of several days, she begins to shape the crown.

“I iron it. Then I flip it over and put it under the sandbag it to get the brim nice and flat.”

She shaves off the extra hair, cuts the brim to the right size, and puts a sweatband in with the owner’s name stamped in the leather.

Bowling continues, “That’s when they come to get it and I shape it while they’re here.”

There aren’t more than a half-dozen custom hat makers in Oklahoma.

Cindy works on hers nights and weekends when she’s not teaching Junior High Algebra.

To find her you almost have to know her.

“I don’t advertise,” she says. “It’s all word of mouth.”

The Dry Creek Hattery is one of those places you hope still exist, where craftsmanship meets a fair price and firm handshake.

“I always say if you don’t like it you don’t own it,”

The best hats are the ones you want to wear every day.

Bowling’s Dry Creek Hatters does have a simple website.

To get there, click here.

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