TEXAS NEIGHBORS | SPRING 2015 By Jessica Domel Field Editor From a swath of fine felt to an expertly-crafted crown and brim, the artisans at Catalena Hatters keep the spirit of the West alive. One hat at a time. For over three decades, the Catalena family has made and shaped custom felt hats at their store in downtown Bryan. Their hats are worn by the likes of Willie Nelson, Aaron Watson, Neal McCoy and others. But to the Catalena family, every hat is special. Doesn’t matter if it’s worn by a famous musician, a farmer or just the boy next door. “Texans use hats for what hats were meant to be used for. It’s more of a tool,” Scott Catalena said. “It’s part of the culture. It’s part of that person. After a while, the hat takes on that person’s personality.” Cowboy hats protect people from the elements, keeping their heads warm and dry. They eventually become a part of them. Those are just a few of the many reasons the Catalenas continue to make custom hats for their growing customer base. WWW.TEXASFARMBUREAU.ORG “It’s not a job for us. It’s a passion,” Scott said. “It’s something we’ve grown up doing. We think we’re pretty good at it. We really like doing it.” Catalena Hats start out with what’s called a “raw body” of felt from Winchester, Tenn. What the body is made of depends upon the cus-tomer’s desires. For 10X hats, it’s rabbit fur. For 20X, rabbit and beaver. And for the top-of-the-line 100X hats, the raw body is 100 percent bea-ver, which is long-lasting and weatherproof. The hat makers take the raw body and find a corresponding oval block that matches your head size, which they measure in the store. The felt and block are put in a machine that uses steam to shape the felt to fit your head. The felt then goes through an ironing process, a trimming process and several other steps to ensure the hat is in prime shape. The Catalenas use a flange, which is basically a hot iron steam-heat-ed press, to lock in the fibers. It presses the fur real tight, adding to the longevity. “From that, it goes into the finishing process,” Travis Catalena said.