Custom of the Country

Discover the heritage-style hat brand—and the Montana milliner behind it—turning everyone’s heads. 

Written by Jenn Thornton

For designer Courtney Green, life at the top starts with the Montana Territory Hat Company (MT 1864), the brand she founded in Bozeman, Montana to create custom-made, handcrafted headpieces that nod modern yet timeless, while expressing a decidedly American West sensibility filtered through the lens of a new-generation maker. In the realm of head-covering couture, Courtney is, without question, a crowning talent.

This daughter of the American West has indeed worn many hats. She grew up riding horses and drawing, and after college flourished as a designer and buyer in the fast-paced fashion industry. But the West never left her. “I loved it,” Courtney confesses of her former fashion life, “but I always knew I belonged in the mountains.” After moving to Montana, she continues, “I wanted to create something that pulled from my background in fashion and design, and my love for art and the American West. I wanted to commit to something that was rooted in and inspired by Montana.”

Not something any old hobbyist would try, either. No patchwork this, or macrame that. “I love product that feels like art,” Courtney says. “Slow, deliberate, intentional. Product that will last a lifetime and accumulate stories along the way.” In other words, damn good design. When this mother of two isn’t making hats in her studio, which is very close to her family ranch, she is, in her words, “putting them to good use working cattle on horseback and riding through the Aspens in the shadow of the Bridger Mountains,” she says. “I am grateful every day to be immersed in this wild landscape. I have never been happier.”

“I love product that feels like art. Slow, deliberate, intentional.”

— Courtney Green, milliner

When Courtney settled in Bozeman, she brought her big-city business chops with her—the lady can build a brand. One can easily envision Courtney’s minimally ornamented, trim-brimmed beauties in the wardrobe department of a modern Hollywood Western, or topping off a fashion spread in Vogue. Each piece is not only handsome, it has what Courtney came to mourn while working in Big Retail—soul. MT 1864, as a whole, explores the sweet spot between high fashion and the old West. These two fascinations, along with rodeos, art museums, music, architecture, photography and the odd coffee shop—all are grist for Courtney’s mill. “Inspiration is everywhere,” she says. “Anything built with an intention towards quality and an eye for good taste.” Plus, she adds, “I have always loved hats. There is a quality, a history, an identity. Every hat has a story.”

The story of MT 1864 reflects the broader narrative of the American West, its romance and ruggedness, and she’s unapologetically high-hatted about its most iconic figure—the cowboy. “I love the way cowboys handle themselves,” notes Courtney. “There is a quiet pride. A worth ethic. A sense of purpose. A gentleness mixed with courage, tenacity and resilience.” As for the cowboy hat itself? Put it this way: “I do not believe any other item has the potential to evoke the same sense of pride, purpose, and individual style,” she says. So how about a design for the Duke, then? Easy, she muses: “The classic cowboy hat in a light neutral color—sand, maybe. A light distress. A simple wrapped band made of an authentic rawhide and sinew. Something that looks a bit weathered, but ready to take on more stories for the next 100 years.”

“I do not believe any other item has the potential to evoke the same sense of pride, purpose, and individual style.”

— Courtney Green on cowboy hats

That Courtney thinks in centuries bodes well for a brand whose designs are made to last at least that long. “I make every hat by hand,” she says.“One at a time. From start to finish. Quality is a cornerstone of my brand.” Design, too. Her hats are made with meaning and inspired by the rich history of the West.“The West has always symbolized freedom and hope and opportunity to me,” concludes Courtney. “One of the things I always tell people is that I am not just selling a hat—you can buy a hat anywhere. What I’m really selling is what it represents. A piece of a place. A way of life.” She wears it well.

Check out more of Courtney’s works on Instagram @montanaterritoryhatco

Photographs courtesy of Montana Territory Hat Company