Reviews and Press for Cowboys and Hatters and Other Hat Books

Department of Theatre and Dance Costume Designer Turns Mad Hatter

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Controlling an obsession can be difficult, but Deborah Henderson, costume designer for the Wittenberg University Department of Theatre and Dance, recently proved otherwise as she channeled her obsession with men’s hats into four books and a traveling exhibit.

Henderson’s book, Cowboys and Hatters: Bond Street, Sage Brush & the Silver Screen, and an exhibit by the same name, resulted from research gathered for her Ph.D. dissertation.

“In 1994 I was starting my Ph.D. and wanted a dissertation topic,” Henderson said. “While watching Sherlock Holmes on PBS, I realized that all the men were wearing different styles of toppers, bowlers and soft cloth caps. A light went off – men’s hats.”











By focusing on the historical use of the hat by real cowboys in juxtaposition with the hats of movie cowboys and fashionable gentlemen, the exhibition shows how a costume accessory indicates status, vocation, and myth, and how these change over time. Through the use of real hats, dressed mannequins, hat-making implements and samples, photographs of the hat-making process, and portraits of men wearing hats, the exhibition explores all levels of hat-making, hat-wearing and hat iconography. The exhibit focuses on men's costume and includes a signlficant section on the manufacture of the object. It also details everyday working clothes. The public fascination with the cowboys of legend serves to give the audience a greater appreciation of the role of costume as social indicator.

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All photos and content © 2006 Debbie Henderson, Cowboys and Hatters.No photos or content may be reproduced without express written permission from the author.