Cowboy Hat

Cowboy Hats: Everything You Need to Know

The lore, materials, and etiquette surrounding the iconic cowboy hat

The cowboy hat reflects tradition and respect, embodying the spirit of frontier heritage and timeless style. Let’s take a look at the cowboy hat, following its journey from practical headwear to a working fashion statement.

Brief History of the Cowboy Hat

The cowboy hat is synonymous with the American West, tracing its roots back to the 19th century. Credited to John B. Stetson in 1865, cowboy hats have a storied past deeply intertwined with frontier life and Hollywood portrayals. In old Western movies, villains often wore dark-colored hats while protagonists donned lighter hues, establishing an enduring association with character archetypes.

The shape of the cowboy hat has evolved to serve practical purposes for cowboys working on ranches across the American West. The wide brim provided shade from the sun, while the tall crown allowed for better ventilation and insulation. Rain played a part, too. The upturned edges of the brim helped direct rainwater away from the face. All in all, these features made cowboy hats well-suited for the harsh conditions of the Western frontier.

So, with that tip of the hat to its history, what else can we uncover about the cowboy hat? Let’s take a ride.


Cowboy hats typically come in two primary materials: felt and straw. Felt hats, crafted from wool or fur, offer warmth and durability, making them ideal for cooler seasons. On the other hand, straw hats, woven from natural fibers, provide superior ventilation, ensuring comfort during warmer months. This seasonal distinction gives rise to the tradition of wearing straw hats from Memorial Day to Labor Day and felt hats from Labor Day to Memorial Day.

How We Wear a Cowboy Hat Today

Modern cowboy hat enthusiasts have embraced versatility, often opting for felt hats year-round, regardless of seasonal norms. The hat’s shape can be customized to suit individual preferences and flatter facial features. When it comes to color, the choice is entirely personal, with no strict rules governing selection. A simple rule for distinguishing the front from the back of a new hat is that the front is typically narrower than the back. However, if you are unsure, a universal guideline is that the hat's bow on the inner liner is at the back when donning it.


Beyond fashion, cowboy hat etiquette remains an integral part of Western culture. It is customary to remove one's hat as a sign of respect when greeting someone, during the National Anthem, at the dinner table, and during solemn occasions such as wedding ceremonies.

As a symbol of frontier heritage and timeless style, the cowboy hat continues to capture the imagination and embody the spirit of the American West, transcending seasons and trends.


Related Articles

DIY Painted Cowboy Hat


DIY Painted Cowboy Hat

Step-by-step instructions and ideas for DIY painting a cowboy hat...

Read More

What to Wear to a Rodeo


What to Wear to a Rodeo

Here’s your fun and fashionable wardrobe guide that speaks to the cowboy or cowgirl in everyone...

Read More

How to Break in Western Boots


How to Break in Western Boots

Get that perfect just-for-you fit with your preferred method to break in your new cowboy boots...

Read More