Leaders at Resistol remain entrenched in the Western lifestyle and manage the hat company based on traditional cowboy codes. Business is booming.
Dustin Noblitt doesn't mind all the stares he gets while traveling throughout the country. His job flies him to the biggest cities in the United States for meetings, conferences, and events, and his Resistol cowboy hat turns plenty of heads.
Raised in California's rich rodeo and ranching culture, Noblitt fits into his Western garb naturally. He's also president and CEO of ProEquine Group, parent company of Resistol, and he says his crisp, well-creased hat is viewed favorably.
"You walk into a room with your hat on, and it just brings a smile to their face," he says. "It's a feeling of respect and admiration. Also, I think people have a safe feeling when they see someone in a cowboy hat."
Without a doubt, the American cowboy remains the most unique and iconic emblem of the West, recognized worldwide for something that represents rugged individualism, self-sufficiency, and adherence to a code of conduct that has endured for more than a century. It follows suit that Resistol holds dearly to its cowboy roots.
Noblitt and his staff members who work in management, sales, and marketing own horses, raise cattle, or wear belt buckles they won at prestigious rodeos, horse shows, and team roping events. However, their connection to the Western way of life goes beyond what hobbies or activities they pursue outside work. It guides how they run the company.
"I feel like you see those [cowboy] values at Resistol because we live it every day," says Mary Jane Carpenter, Resistol's brand director who entered her first rodeo at age 9. "We still ride horses. We ranch. We rodeo. In everything we say and do, we understand it and live that way ourselves."
In an era when many corporations, organizations, and society in general are straying from traditional values, the 96-year-old hat company based in Garland, Texas, continues to operate on principles of trust and integrity, according to Ricky Bolin, general manager of Resistol.
"We try to stay as old-fashioned as we can in certain areas," says Bolin, a five-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier in bull riding and an avid team roper. "I believe in doing what you say you're going to do. Our handshake and our word mean a lot. That's the way I was brought into the industry, and I'm going to try to keep it that way as much as possible."
Resistol builds nothing but straw and felt cowboy hats, leaving fedoras, derbies, safaris and other types of headwear to its sister companies within HatCo, the largest hat manufacturer in the world, which cranks out approximately 5,000 hats per day.
Resistol continues to practice another throwback concept: Made in America. In fact, with plants in Longview and Garland, the company builds its felt hats entirely in the state of Texas. The Longview plant blends raw beaver, rabbit, and wild hare fur to create felt hat bodies. Those bodies are then shipped to Garland for a detailed, multistep process that involves steaming, pressing, smoothing, shaping, and refining them into a finished product.
I feel like you see those [cowboy] values at Resistol because we live it every day. We still ride horses. We ranch. We rodeo. In everything we say and do, we understand it and live that way ourselves. ~ Mary Jane Carpenter, Resistol Brand Director
"We're very proud to be the only hat manufacturer that's entirely made here in the United States, from fur to finish," Noblitt says. "I think that says a lot to our customer base."
Another fact that likely resonates with customers is how Resistol employees "ride for the brand." About 17 percent of its factory workers have been with the company for at least 10 years, and many have logged 20 years of service. A handful have retired after 50 years. Such high retention rates likely speak to the Western values and actions of upper management.
"One day this past September, we shut down at noon and bussed our factory workers from Longview to Garland, and in the parking lot we set up tents with food, a band, dunking booths — all kinds of stuff," Bolin says. "It was so they could all mingle, meet face-to-face, and build relationships."
"If our employees enjoy what they do and work for someone who cares, they tend to work harder and happier," Noblitt adds. "That's our focus as the leadership team."
Resistol also focuses on building good rapport with rodeo cowboys, professional horsemen, organizations, and leaders in the Western industry. It was the original sponsor of the World Series of Team Roping, the United States Team Roping Championships, the multimillion-dollar rodeo named The American, and the 87-year-old Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (Wrangler and Justin are also original sponsors of PRCA). Carpenter says staying involved in the industry isn't only about advertising and brand recognition.
"We do it to help support the cowboys and the organizations," she says. "We feel strongly about supporting the Western lifestyle."
"One of the best relationships Resistol has had for a really long time is with George Strait. When we started that hat line, it was on a handshake deal. It's still our largest-selling line in Resistol, and it's still based on a handshake. It says a lot about our company, and about George Strait, as well."
During the last few years, the cowboy hat business has seen a remarkable spike in sales. The growing popularity of rodeo, increased participation in team roping and other equine events, and a bigger presence of Western-themed programming on television indicate that more people are gravitating toward the Western lifestyle. Even the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 didn't dampen demand for Resistols.
"We shut down for six weeks during COVID, and then we reopened and were flexible with employee concerns," Noblitt says. "But when we fired back up, we couldn't catch up with the orders. Our retailers were calling and ordering products because hats were flying off their shelves. Online sales really took off. We couldn't catch up, and we still haven't caught up."
By all accounts, it has once again become popular to be a cowboy or cowgirl. Noblitt believes that recent events throughout the nation, including a pandemic, widespread rioting, a faltering economy, and political turmoil, have caused many individuals to reach back to their roots. For them, there's something steadfast, even virtuous, to be found in donning a cowboy hat.
"It represents America, in my opinion," Noblitt says. "It represents morals, values, 'in God we trust,' saying 'yes ma'am' and 'no ma'am,' raising your kids the right way — all those things the Western lifestyle is about."
To learn more about Resistol's newest endeavors, check them on Instagram and through their website.