CALGARY – The impact of royalty continues to resonate a year after Prince William and his wife Kate donned cowboy hats during their visit to the Stampede.
The Smithbilt white cowboy hats that the royal couple were presented on their visit to Calgary has contributed to booming sales for the company.
And the style with which the Duchess of Cambridge wore hers has created a bit of a fashion trend.
“We got so much mileage out of the pictures of her with that hat on. She looks fabulous — and looks fabulous in everything — but she looked really good wearing that hat,” said Bryce Nimmo, the president of Smithbilt Hats.
“It did two things for us. It got our name out and, two, it showed women that you can wear a hat and look good. Women tend to get nervous around hats.
“First of all, they say it’s going to wreck their hair and they’ll get hat head … What we do with women is cut their brims down because they don’t want to look like ‘The Flying Nun.’ Women look great in small brims.”
There was a big spike in sales of white hats after the royal visit, said vice-president Brian Hanson.
“Actually we ran out of the material to make them. It was good.”
Hanson described the Stampede as “our Christmas.” The firm turns out about 20,000 hand-made hats each year and another 50,000 straw models that it brings in from Mexico.
Smithbilt has put out a special centennial version to mark the Stampede’s 100th birthday.
“We’re doing 100 hats for the anniversary. They’re all numbered and certified, they’ve got the Stampede logo in them as well as ours inside the hat,” said Hanson.
“Outside the hat there’s a sterling silver buckle on the hatband. It has a hat case with your name on it. It’s 100 per cent beaver fur.”
The hats are selling for $1,500 and Nimmo said over 40 have already sold.
The biggest seller is the black Smithbilt, but the white hat is an enduring symbol of the city’s cowboy culture.
Other people to have been presented with a white hat during a visit to Calgary include Pope John Paul II, Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, retired U.S. general David Petraeus, former U.S. president George W. Bush, former British prime minister Tony Blair, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On the entertainment side, add Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Luciano Pavarotti, Tommy Chong and even Ozzy Osbourne.
There are dozens of pictures on the walls of the company’s southeast Calgary showroom and factory.
Nimmo isn’t worried about business fading, even though the hats are built to last a long time.
“There’s a million-plus people in this city. That’s a lot of hats. I’m not too worried about running out of customers because there’s always more customers.
“The neat thing about the City of Calgary is the white hat symbol. It will keep going forever and ever.”