RED PLASTIC HOG HELMETS

If somebody knows only two things about Arkansas, Bill Clinton is the first and Uncle Heavy's Original Hog Hat is the second. To satisfy my own, and your, curiosity, I called up Mike Ibsen, the guy who owns the rights to these things.

Hog helmets started showing up on the heads of students at the University of Arkansas Razorback games back in the 1960's. The opaque shell was large enough to accomodate a bottle of liquor, and could be used to bootleg the bottle right under the snouts of stadium security. The bottle goes in the hat. The student tucks the hat under his arm and walks right in the stadium.

For a long time, nobody approached the hog helmet as a serious money-making enterprise. It was a novelty item pretty much limited to student smuggling operations. Then in 1977, nineteen-year-old Fayetteville undergraduate Mike Ibsen (the same Mike Ibsen in the Second Big Blue Man Story) bought up all existing inventories and the rights to the hog hat.

Mike hired a man to redesign the hat to accomodate a larger head. He told me that one of the pre-1977 hog hats will fit inside one of the new hog hats. In fact, a half-gallon plastic jug of rum will fit inside, although this was not the intent of the redesign. A larger hat would fit a wider range of heads, and therefore he could increase the number of potential customers. Also, the redesigned hat can be more easily made with modern plastic injection equipment. I neglected to ask, but I assume the old ones were made by Vac-U-Form.

Mike estimates that ten-thousand hog hats sold last year, and that there have been about a half-million manufactured in the twenty years since he's been making and selling them. That's one hog hat for every five Arkansans. I didn't ask him how much he gets from each hat. I was always taught that it's rude to ask detailed questions about finance, health and sex (but mainly about finance). I'm just glad that they are manufactured by an Arkansan. I'd hate to think some Texan was selling us our hog hats.

I bought mine at Hogman's Hog Pen on University Avenue in Little Rock. The store claims to be the largest retail vendor of Razorback merchandise. Could be. I paid twenty-three bucks for a hat shaped like a hog. The scary part is that's not the most foolish money I've ever spent.

RTJ -- 5/5/97



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