Best of the West: Barbwire Custom Hats


Hey all, ask welcome back! We’re going to make your wait worth it with the first of a new feature here on called (not so originally) Best of the West.

I feel like I’m really fortunate to know many talented people in the¬†Western world, and would like for you to be able to meet them. So occasionally I’ll be introducing you to an artisan, business, ag producer, or whatever, whom/that I love. First up, Barbwire Custom Hats, which I thought would be perfect with Farmfair and Canadian Finals Rodeo starting this weekend.

I met owner Brent Bartley years ago at the Farm & Ranch Show, and immediately fell for his style. Brent’s talents are so versatile, he is able to create custom lids that work for everyone from ranch hands to those who want flash and fancy. ‘Nuff of my take though, here’s his story:

How did you discover your passion was making custom cowboy hats?

I got started building hats after a rodeo injury. I drove by a custom hat shop on my way home from physio, so I’d stop in, B.S., and drink coffee. One day the hatter got tired of me B.S.’ing and drinking coffee, and the rest is history.

Tell us a little about how you learned and developed your craft.

I worked there for five years before moving on to a manufacturer, then struck out on my own seven years ago. I’ve been “hatting” for 17 years now.

Your shop is in a pretty unique location. How did you come to set up there?

Our shop is located on the Jimmy Jock Boardwalk in Big Valley, Alberta, Canada. My wife was raised there, and her family farms in the area. We moved from High River three years ago and haven’t looked back. I enjoy the small-town atmosphere.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My inspiration really just comes from our customers. I also get ideas from western fashion, and my wife has a great eye. She’ll come up with something, I’ll try it out, and usually she’s right.

What’s your favorite hat you’ve ever made?

I made a hat for Sierra Stoney that Cheryl came up with the idea for – it’s one of my favorites for sure. The hat is black, pure beaver, with carved leather on the under brim that has stars and scrolls stitched into it. That was all Cheryl’s idea. It looked pretty cool on the big screen when she collected her go-round win at the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

If you could make a hat for anyone, who would it be and what would the hat look like?

Designs on the under brim seem to be our big thing. Lately, we’ve been doing a fair amount of buck stitching, I’m glad to see that’s back in style. I like how it looks on belts and saddles so I tried it on a hat brim – it adds just enough to make a hat stand out without being overboard.

Though you can find Barbwire Custom Hats at many Western events and trade shows, Brent & Cheryl will miss Edmonton next week. You can always call him to order, 403-999-9332, or e-mail

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