(reprinted from the June/July 2010 issues of American Cowboy magazine)

Go See The Headmaster

Hatter Nate Funmaker is strictly traditional.

Nate Funmaker has always been an artist at heart--but hats?

"I just stumbled into it," says the full-blooded Winnebago.

As a young man, he painted signs, worked as a scrimshaw etcher with his father, and picked up work as an assistant to an established hatter called "The Bounty Hunter" in Mancos, Colo. After a seven-year apprenticeship, he branched out in 2001 to make custom hats.

Nathaniel's of Colorado in Mancos, Colo., uses antique equipment, such as a Crown Iron (which cures the crown of the hat and gives it a better shape) and a Conformator (which maps the unique shape of a customer's head). "The equipment from 100 years ago was built really well, and it can always be fixed," Funmaker explains.

Along with his two assistant hatters, Funmaker works slowly on each order, producing three hats total per day. He says he often has between 70 and 100 orders waiting to be filled, so customers have to trust the process.

"Every customer is different," says Funmaker. "So I tell them, 'Let's really make it your hat.'" Ideally, the customer is present in his shop so Funmaker can offer an expert custom fitting, otherwise they send photos and measurements.

Nathaniel's of Colorado offers hats in three different levels of quality and material: rabbit fur, a 50-50 blend of rabbit and beaver fur, and 100-percent beaver fur at the top of the line.