Apparently the 11th time is the charm if you’re a Bakersfield machine-tool rep with a vision to create a cowboy hard hat. That’s how many times it took inventor Bret Atkins to develop a design that would meet ANSI standards and win the all-important approval of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Tired of getting grease or dirt on his snow white Stetson each time he entered a hard hat-required site for work, Atkins began working in his garage on a fiberglass hard hat model with some country flare. After 10 tries and nearly $80,000 worth of ANSI testing fees, the backyard inventor got it just right. But limited production ability meant he was only churning out about 15 a day.
That was until Katie Couric happened to see a friend of Atkins’ wife wearing a Western Outlaw when the Today Show host came to chat with a crowd outside the NBC studios in New York. And while that must have been quite a New York fashion statement by the family friend, it lead to Katie wearing the hard hat during a show and announcing to the nationwide audience “It’s an OSHA-approved Western hard hat.”
Orders began to stream in, including one from an Australian distributor who ordered 10,000 because the Australian Cancer Society liked the broad, sun-shielding brim. Atkins found a manufacturer, ramped up production, and today the Western Outlaw is sold by distributors, including us, around the world.
The OccuNomix Vulcan model that we sell protects from sun and rain, reduces exposure to electrical conductors, and cuts a very dashing figure on the job site. Since it was developed in Bakersfield, it shares roots with country legends like Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. And we have to believe if Merle was ever on a hard hat-required jobsite, he’d prefer to wear a Western Outlaw any day of the week.