A Guide to Cowboy Hat Styles and Etiquette

The cowboy hat, a symbol of the American West, is more than just a fashionable accessory. It’s a bold statement of a person’s character and a reflection of a rich historical tapestry. This guide imparts insights on how to wear cowboy hats with style, understanding the diverse varieties of cowboy hats, and picking out the perfect one for you.

Mastering Cowboy Hat Styles

Cowboy Hat StylesKnown alternatively as a cowgirl or Western hat, a cowboy hat features a broad brim geared towards shielding cattle ranchers from harsh weather conditions.

The concept of wide-brimmed hats isn’t new, but the American cowboy hat we know and love today came into existence through John B. Stetson in 1865. Initially known as the “Boss of the Plains,” the cowboy hat was likely inspired by the headgear of Northern Mexican vaqueros or cattlemen. It was a fur-felt hat with a tall, straight-sided crown and a wide brim, designed for durability, waterproofing, and style.

Since then, the cowboy hat has evolved into an array of styles but remains a staple of Western fashion along with cowboy boots and belt buckles.

Selecting the Right Cowboy Hat for Your Style

Choosing a cowboy hat is largely dependent on personal taste. However, picking a hat based on your head’s shape can ensure an ideal fit and enhance your overall look.

  1. Decide on a cowboy hat shape that complements your face shape. Before you go hat shopping, identify your face shape. Oval-faced people can opt for any cowboy hat style. Round-faced individuals will benefit from a slanted brim and tall crown hat. Long, narrow faces typically look best with medium-height crown hats. Square-faced individuals can try hats with round crowns and curved brims. Lastly, if you have a heart-shaped face, a hat with a teardrop-shaped crown and shorter brim would suit best.
  2. Take accurate measurements of your head for a snug fit. Cowboy hat manufacturers provide a standard hat size chart, but a measuring tape is the most reliable option. Position the measuring tape just above your ears, at the center of your forehead, and wrap it around your head. If you find yourself in between sizes, opt for the smaller one for the best fit.

5 Most Popular Cowboy Hat Styles and Shapes

  1. Cattleman Cowboy Hat: This is the most traditional and popular style of cowboy hat. It features a creased crown and a wide, curved brim.
  2. Gus Cowboy Hat: This style was popularized by the character Gus McCrae in the mini-series “Lonesome Dove.” It features a high, creased crown and a wide, sloping brim.
  3. Tom Mix Cowboy Hat: Named after the famous silent film cowboy star, this hat has a tall crown with a single crease down the middle and a wide, flat brim.
  4. Gambler Cowboy Hat: This style has a flat crown with no creases and a wide, flat brim. It is often associated with riverboat gamblers and southern gentlemen.
  5. Pinch Front Cowboy Hat: Also known as the “teardrop” cowboy hat, this style features a crown that is pinched in the front to form a teardrop shape. The brim is typically medium to wide and can be shaped in various ways.

Pairing a Cowboy Hat with Your Outfit

Cowboy hats are available in various styles, each suited to different occasions. For formal events, a black cowboy hat works best, while for casual gatherings, palm-leaf or straw hats are preferable. You can pair your cowboy hat with traditional Western wear like cowboy boots or opt for a modern twist with black Chelsea boots. Cowboy hats traditionally pair well with blue jeans and button-down shirts but can also be worn with a T-shirt and shorts or a skirt and blouse for a more relaxed look.

Decoding Cowboy Hat Etiquette

Wearing a cowboy hat is steeped in Western tradition and culture, with specific etiquette rules to follow.

  • Ensure the bow on the hat band is at the back of your head. First-time wearers often confuse the front and back of the hat. The bow is tied to the sweatband inside the hat, which indicates the back.
  • Allow your hat to break in. Like new cowboy boots, cowboy hats also require a break-in period. A properly fitted hat might feel tight initially, but it will loosen with time.
  • Hats are typically removed indoors. Basic cowboy hat etiquette entails removing your hat when entering a public building or a private residence.
  • Place your hat crown side down when not wearing it. Traditional cowboy hat etiquette requires removing your hat at the dining table. Ensure the hat’s opening faces upwards to prevent the brim from flattening.
  • Show respect at weddings and funerals. Hats should be removed in churches, indoor weddings, and funerals. During funeral processions, it’s customary to remove your hat as the casket passes.
  • Wear the right hat for the right season. Generally, straw cowboy hats are worn from May until Labor Day, while felt cowboy hats are worn for the remaining months. This entirely depends on the climate and weather of your location.

Understanding how to wear a cowboy hat and the etiquette involved is an essential part of embracing this iconic Western accessory. Remember, the cowboy hat is more than just a hat – it’s a statement of personal style steeped in tradition and history.