Picture of hatmaker Sheila Kirpatrick showing off her famous creations in Twin Bridges, Montana

Hatmaker Sheila Kirpatrick shows off her famous creations in Twin Bridges, Montana.

Photograph by Ami Vitale

By Maryellen Kennedy Duckett

Purchase a Custom-Made Cowboy Hat, Twin Bridges

Where do real Montana cowboys buy their hats? Plenty make the pilgrimage to Montana Mad Hatters in Twin Bridges, where owner Sheila Kirkpatrick handcrafts custom hats. Her hat-making artistry, which earned Kirkpatrick a spot in the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in 1992, draws wranglers, locals, and celebs (including Hank Williams, Jr. and Cheryl Ladd) to her shop for a custom fit. Vacationers who covet an authentic Montana-made cowboy hat can stop in to get measured and discuss specifics such as style, color, and quality (prices start at $275). “Montanans wear many different cowboy hat styles,” says Kirkpatrick, who works personally with customers to design the hat that suits them best. “Styles are influenced by many factors such as weather [and different styles for] rodeo cowboys, ranchers, music stars, and buckaroos.” If you place an order at the beginning of a week’s vacation, on some occasions your hat could be ready before you head home. Don’t be disappointed, however, if Kirkpatrick has to ship your hat to you when it’s finished. A custom Kirkpatrick hat is worth the wait. Ask any cowboy.

Montana Fur Trading Company, Martin City

Picture of Montana Fur Trading owner Alan Gilham with furs in his shop in Martin City, Montana
Photograph by Ami Vitale

 

With multiple rooms of museum-quality Native American arts and artifacts, customers often seem confused about whether they are in a museum or a store, says Montana Fur Trading Company part-time manager “Taco” Moore. “Lots of people ask me if they can take pictures in here, because you can’t take pictures in lots of museums,” adds Moore, an amiable local retiree who helps out storeowner Don Demoret. “The pieces in here could be in a museum, if they lasted that long. Lots of items you see today probably will be bought and gone by tomorrow.” Moore attributes the quick turnover to authenticity. Montana Fur Trading Company is a member of the Indian Arts and Crafts Association, a certification ensuring the highest quality handmade products. Inside the Old West board-front store are seven themed rooms: art (primarily Western and Indian); artifacts (such as bows, arrows, and tomahawks); antique beads; craft supplies (including animal bones and hides); Indian jewelry (mainly Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni); furs; and Native American music. The Trading Company is located between the Blackfoot Indian Nation and Flathead Reservation. So, in addition to collectors and tourists, the regular customers include Native Americans stocking up on beading and art supplies.

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