Spend enough time in this valley, and you will surely hear tales of the old Jackson, the Western lifestyle that once was — “the good old days.”
You might hear hearty sighs over times gone by and endless stories of what once was. It is a Western mountain-town epic that has become all too familiar in recent decades. One local woman has a unique tactic for capturing some of that romanticized cowboy/girl culture, and she does it by sprucing up the very thing that embodies the rugged Old West: the iconic cowboy hat.
“Generally, cowboy hats in the past were made of rabbit or beaver and — since it is made from animal hides — the hat will take on your sweat. It creates a permanent mark that you can’t get out and so hat bands were created in order to hide those stains,” explains Haley Fitzgerald, the owner, founder and creative mind behind Spruced Plume, an animal-to-hat accessories company. Haley’s products are sourced from her own hunted game, accessorizing the ranchers holding onto the old ways, the modern-day cowhand or just your average Jackson citizen. “The idea then was that you could work cattle all day, and then go out to a bar to go dancing at night and wear the same hat.”
Haley hunts as a way of existing as sustainably as possible in this modern world and uses it as a way to support her creative endeavors as well.
“Hunting is something that I’m really passionate about because I hunt to eat. I found that, although I was consuming the meat, I wasn’t using any of the feathers of my birds and I’ve always cared a lot about whole-animal use,” Haley explains, describing the thought processes that led her to begin crafting hat accessories. Her product has since evolved from simple pin-back plumes to elaborate hat bands, magnetic accessories, pocket squares and bow ties. She has also begun incorporating leather from some of the big game that she hunts, ensuring that no part of her animals go to waste.
Between the creative energy that she harnesses to design her products and her time spent in nature, Haley finds herself content and rejuvenated. “It’s my truest love, just being able to get out and work with my dogs and be outside,” she says. “It’s my version of mental health, being out deep in the backcountry. Then, on the back end, being able to transform those feathers into something unique and really beautiful is an amazing artistic outlet for me.”
Haley hopes to continue to see her business grow, and to always source either from animals that she harvests or to create custom pieces from animals and birds that other hunters send her. “I will never purchase feathers. What I have on hand is what I will use, and that is never going to change.
“Because the feathers are a lot like fingerprints, I can’t make the same product twice. Everything I make is completely unique,” she explains. “I am always looking at ways to differentiate my product and find new niche aspects of the market. I will always continue with my mission of whole-animal use.”
Haley walks a unique road. She effortlessly combines her love of hunting, nature and the outdoors through a creative medium that commodifies something which would otherwise be thrown away and wasted. Instead, she turns it into a product that is both beautiful and that pays historical homage to old Western ways of life that you can still catch glimpses of in Jackson.
Sprucedplume.com is Haley’s newly launched point of sale, and she can also be found on Instagram modeling her wares.