Meet Grand Junction’s Hat Shaping Virtuoso
Have you met Jerry Derby, a Grand Junction rodeo cowboy and hat shaping artist? His work is nothing short of extraordinary. Take a look at Jerry in action.
This is mildly embarrassing, but I thought cowboy hats came to the store already formed and creased. It never occurred to me a person could have a hat shaped exactly they way they wanted while they wait. Yes, I knew you could make changes and alter the form a little, but I knew nothing about this level of craftsmanship.
This ladies and gentlemen is an art form in and of itself. When it comes to hats, people can be every bit as particular and fussy as they are about their hair. Maybe even more so. Jerry's talent is the ability to shape any hat to suit any client's wishes.
Have any of his hats ever achieved notoriety? Absolutely. Do you remember a guy from a few years back named Chris LeDoux? Yes, Jerry made Chris' hats. If you've had the pleasure of being pulled over by the Colorado State Patrol in some of the southwestern portions of Colorado, chances are the officer's hat was crafted by Jerry.
When I came by to see Jerry at work in his shop, he had a line of people waiting to get their hats shaped. One person in line had Jerry shape five hats and create another from scratch.
For a typical "shaping" of a hat, it seems Jerry runs somewhere in the four to five-minute range. For a custom hat, including having the owner's name embossed on the lining, roughly 30 minutes.
There's been talk about the 40th anniversary of the movie Smokey and the Bandit. I asked Jerry if he knew what kind of hat Burt Reynolds wore in that movie. In asking, it was my hope Jerry could tell me the name of the style. Jerry told me the style, the particular materials, the shade, and the specifics of the crease, all from memory.
Does Jerry practice what he preaches? Absolutely. Jerry was a rodeo champ for several decades. He's now 75 and doesn't rodeo anymore. It wasn't that long ago he stopped competing, though. Check out this feature article about Jerry from Rodeo News magazine.
Watching Jerry at work is nothing short of fascinating. This is a true artist. You'll see him at rodeos and events all over Western Colorado and Texas. To see him at work just swing by his shop, Rocky Mountain Hatters, in Orchard Mesa.