Brad Peters is no beginner at making a cowboy hat. As a fifth-generation hat maker and vice president of Peters Brothers Hats in downtown Fort Worth, he remembers being in his family’s shop by the time he was 4 years old.
“When I was younger, we didn’t really use a babysitter. I just came to work,” Peters said.
Every once in a while, though, he gets a request out of the ordinary. That happened last July, when he received a call to make vintage hats for creator Taylor Sheridan’s cowboy western TV show “1883.”
Peters Brothers Hats is one of many local businesses that profited from the show, which was filmed in Fort Worth last year. The film industry in Fort Worth has added millions into the local economy and thousands of jobs since its inception in 2015, supporting local actors and businesses, according to the Fort Worth Film Commission.
For Peters Brothers Hats, “1883” was a way to continue the business’s long-carried tradition of hat making and show off their old school western style.
Peters makes hats in a store that hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1933. The original cash register sits on the counter where visitors walk in. Each hat is made by hand, using vintage equipment made out of poplar wood.
Lately, making a hat takes about a year because of a backlog in materials, Peters said. Normally, it would take a few days to make a hat. For the TV show, Peters had a tighter deadline. Sometimes, he was asked for a hat in 24 hours.
Peters grabbed hat bodies that were about 50 years old and material made out of beaver from a stash in the store to make the hats for actors. The coolest part, he said, was meeting actor Sam Elliot in the store, where they made a hat made out of pure beaver fur.
“Getting to watch the show after making the hats is pretty cool, too,” Peters said. “So a show that gains popularity … as quick as it has … to have a little bit to do with it is pretty neat.”
This isn’t the first time famous people have gone into the store to get a hat. Joe Peters Jr., the store owner and Brad’s father, recalls when a man walked into the shop wearing a New York Yankees ball cap and sunglasses. It wasn’t until the man picked out about 12 hats and handed him his credit card that he realized it was singer-songwriter Neil Diamond.
“He tells me at that time, ‘Don’t change a thing about this place. I love it. It’s never changed. Don’t ever change it,’” Peters Jr. said.
Inside the store a wall full of pictures called the “wall of fame” sits next to the cash register. It includes a long list of U.S. presidents who visited Fort Worth and received hats.
“That presidential list goes from Woodrow Wilson all the way through Jimmy Carter,” Peters Jr. said. “Every American president received one. … I had the pleasure of making one for Bill Clinton.”
The fact that the hats are all handmade, one at a time much as they were 100 years ago, makes them desirable, Peters Jr. said. He said he is unsure how their store got on the radar of the producers of “1883.” But Peters Jr. guesses that it might be when he shaped a hat for Taylor Sheridan and mentioned the shop while working his day job at M.L. Leddy’s, a store for western attire.
Media production has generated over $300 million in-state spending and 18,429 jobs in the DFW area, according to the Texas Film Commission. The Fort Worth Film Commission tries to connect producers to businesses through a directory on its website, but Jessica Christopherson, vice president of marketing for Visit Fort Worth and the Fort Worth film commissioner, said it’s also by word of mouth.
A production at the scale of “1883” employs hundreds of employees, from extras to tech crew jobs, which also fuels business, Christopherson said.
“They are staying in our hotels, they’re renting corporate apartments, they’re utilizing local restaurants, dry cleaners,” Christopherson said.
It’s too soon to say if “1883” has boosted visitors to the Fort Worth Stockyards, said Craig Cavalier, executive vice president for Majesty Realty Co. But Kayla Wilkie, director of design and development for Heritage Development, said it doesn’t hurt to expose more people to the history of the West through TV.
“The more people tell this story, I think we all benefit,” Wilkie said.
For the Peters, the benefit is clear. The felt hat business slows down in the summer, so getting orders from the actors then was helpful. Shows like “Yellowstone” and “1883” have helped usher a greater interest in Western attire, Peters Jr. said.
“It’s made Western cool again,” Peters Jr. said. “So we’re kind of in another Western boom right now.”
This article was originally published by Fort Worth Report.