Buffalo Bill, Fashion Trends, Hats, and the American West…

It is a truism that fashion can be influenced by a variety of things, no matter how removed from the “centers” of fashion they are. During the 19th and early 20th Centuries, this was especially the case with Paris being the fashion capital of the world.

The American West has always exerted a profound influence on the mind of the Old World and especially so during the 1880s and 1890s. Tales of seemingly endless cheap land, wild animals, Indians, and the promise of a better life (helped along by heavy promotion by the railroads and others) fueled people’s imaginations in Europe and this was reflected in the tide of immigration to the United States.

Of course, the reality was often different but people still kept on coming. As the “real” American West was steadily being transformed into an integrated part of the United States, the image of the earlier, “wild” and unsettled West still exerted a powerful influence and showmen such as William F. Cody moved to cash in with his Wild West Show.

Cody’s Wild West Show ran from 1884 through 1908 and during that time, he and his show toured the United States and Europe. With its various acts recreating stage coach robberies, Indian attacks, the even Custer’s last stand, Cody brought to life the “authentic” American West for people and this was especially the case when the show toured Europe.


In 1889, the Show performed in Paris from May 18, 1889 through November 14, 1889 as part of the 1889 Exposition Universelle. During its run in Paris, the show performed twice daily to crowds of 20,000 and more and from all accounts, the show was a major success.


So, with that background, on to fashion and in particular one hat:

Buffalo Bill Hat 1

This hat was made by a Mme Colombin, rue de la Tour-d’Auvergne, and was featured in an 1889 issue of La Mode Illustrée, a leading fashion journal of the day, and marketed as a “Buffalo Bill Hat”. For comparison, here are two images of William F. Cody:

995713f3833fa80522080b41976be78a buffalobillIt’s hard to tell whether this was an isolated example or if there was more out there- it bears more research but in the meantime, it’s still fascinating that a fashionable Paris milliner would make the effort to create an interpretation of Cody’s hat. Of course, fashion influenced by the American West is not unknown but most of it comes later. Anyway, we hope you’ve enjoyed this little fashion tidbit. 🙂

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