Move over Vuitton, Chanel and Givenchy; when it comes to cowboy hats, Shorty Koger is la grande dame.
You can tell a lot about a person by the hat he wears. Are you riding the Great Basin range and prefer a buckaroo crease, or do you don a formal, bound-edge brim chapeau for Western pleasure shows? Choice of color, design, and shape, with subtle differences in the height and crease of the crown, the amount of curl in the brim, and even care and maintenance, make a Western hat a bold statement about the person under the lid.
Shorty Koger, owner of Shorty’s Caboy Hattery (www.shortyshattery.com), has helped customers find their distinct look for more than 20 years. Whether you sport a top-flight, traditional cutter-style hat, are hankering for a Charolais or Holstein hide-brimmed hat, or lean more to the exotic with crocodile-embossed or gazelle overlay on camel hats, whatever your style, Shorty’s can make it.
Located in historic Stockyards City, in Oklahoma City, Koger said she operates the only woman-owned custom hattery in the United States. This Western hatter is known by cutters, reiners, working cow horsemen, saddle bronc riders, ropers and other horse enthusiasts for her inimitable style and matchless quality. When asked about her company’s unusual name, Koger said “caboy” is slang for cowboy.
“It’s for people to ask questions. It gets their attention, and so they always remember it. Texans accuse me of not knowing how to spell cowboy,” she said with a laugh.
Shorty’s hats are known for their comfort and for staying on your head. They are all handmade, and Koger insists on the highest-quality materials available. The fur is hand-picked and imported from France. Her hats are blended with beaver and European hare, which is better than domestic rabbit fur because of the colder climate, making the fur coat much thicker.
Regarding the Xs, there is no set industry standard. However, for Koger, the higher the numer of Xs, the higher percentage of beaver in the hat. Though a 20X hat is excellent, it still will not have the soft, velvety finish of a 100X, or 100 percent, beaver hat. Beaver has long been the preferred fur for hats because it is water-resistant, will not spot and will hold its shape when it gets wet.
Customers are given an almost limitless number of options to personalize their hats, with such touches as brands, beading and embroidery, and Koger handmakes and customizes all her hatbands and stampede strings, as well.
The Breast Cancer Awareness Hat
Koger’s well-known pink Breast Cancer Awareness Hat originated with her sister, Shirley Bowman, who worked for Shorty for seven years and was diagnosed with cancer. Bowman didn’t tell anyone for a year because she didn’t have insurance. Bowman was an inspiration to Koger as she continued to work and courageously fight the disease until the cancer ultimately invaded her brain.
“She worked when she had chemo, she worked when she had radiation, she worked every day and was such an inspiration.”
Koger herself was diagnosed with cancer the year Bowman died, but she didn’t burden her sister with the tragic news.
“I didn’t tell her because she had enough to deal with. I went and had a couple of lumpectomies, and they still couldn’t get it all. We buried her [Shirley Bowman] Nov. 4, 2004, and the very next week, I went in and had a double masectomy. So far, eveything is good.”
For every Breast Cancer hat sold, Koger gave a portion of the money to a fund for Bowman. The pink, 20X hat retails for $350, and $100 is donated for every one sold. Another company that makes a breast cancer jacket gave 30 percent of its sales to the fund, as well, and the fund ended up with about $14,000. But Koger had a problem. To whom was she to give the money?
Fortuitously, a lady who had bought a hat from Koger just happened to be the director of critical operations at the Oklahoma University Cancer Institute. Koger now has an endowment in her sister’s name. Koger was adamant that the money not go to research, but to immediate patient care. The Shirley Bowman Endowed Fund aids people who have cancer but who do not have insurance.