Coonskin Caps

Fess Parker and fans, all wearing coonskin caps

One day hundreds of years ago, a Native American had a close look at the raccoon he had just killed. It may have been a wintry day, and his head may have been cold. As he skinned the creature in preparation for cooking, he may have noticed the the furry pelt was just the right size to cover his head. He didn’t know it then, but he had just created a fad of the 1950’s.

I missed out on coonskin cap mania, though I recall seeing a few of them in the 60’s. It all began in 1954, when Walt Disney put on a series of episodes about Davy Crockett.

Fess Parker did two things. First, he captured the imagination of a generation of youngsters with his portrayal of Crockett, and secondly, he wore an article of clothing that said generation HAD to have for themselves. That, of course, would be the familiar coonskin cap.

The fact is that coonskin caps were historically correct. Native Americans did often wear them, as did frontiersmen. As to whether or not Crockett actually wore one, no one can say for sure. Despite a biographical series on History Channel which enlightened me as to the actual accomplishments of this man, a coonskin cap is still the first thing I think of when I hear his name mentioned.

I don’t speak from memory here, but according to my research, kids with coonskin caps and toy flintlocks were seen everywhere you looked in the 1950’s.

While the craze of the 50’s was over, coonskin caps were still seen in stores and on kids’ heads in my era of the 60’s. This was because Crockett portrayer Fess Parker went on to star in Daniel Boone from 1964 to 1970. And old Dan sported a coonskin cap the whole time.

THIS time, it was artistic liberty. Daniel Boone disliked skin hats, and wore felt instead. Oh well, Fess Parker just wouldn’t have looked the same in a bowler.

If you want to get your hands on a genuine Davy Crockett hat, you can buy one directly from Fess, now a renowned vintner.

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