How To Shape A Cowboy Hat

Last Updated on November 17, 2020

It is no secret wearing a cowboy hat comes with the responsibility of tradition and hat etiquette. This also means regular upkeep and cleaning. With more affordable steamers on the market for consumers, more western wear enthusiasts are wanting to learn how to shape a cowboy hat on their own. Although it is recommended to consult a professional hat shaper, you too can shape your own hat with some education and a whole lot of practice!

Initial Steps On How To Shape A Cowboy Hat

The first step in shaping a hat is determining the material, and if the hat can be re-shaped. Are you shaping a hat from scratch to your own specifications, or tidying up an established shape? Straw hats are notoriously difficult with little leeway for error, and not a recommended material for beginners. Wool hats, for example, cannot be steamed. Once you have a goal and understand the material you are working with, the next step is to determine the actual crease and brim shape you desire. Materials include fur felt cowboy hats, palm leaf, wool, or straw.


For experienced hat shapers or those willing to make a small investment, a hat steamer is the best tool for shaping.  Heated steam can be used to shape, block, stretch, crease, or even tighten up felt and straw hats. Steaming can also be used as part of a refreshing cleaning process for hats that undergo hard wear and tear. Due to the heat of the steam and the damn nature of the shaping, it is vital you wear gloves. This will prevent any burns and prevent any finger smudging (especially on crisp cream hats)! You will also need fresh water on standby. We recommend using distilled water when operating a steamer or an alternative. It is important the water used is free of dyes, fragrance, salt, or added minerals. You do not want to risk discoloration due to steaming.

If you don’t own a hat steamer, a pot of boiling water will do the trick! Tea kettles are a great option as you can control where the steam is released on the hat. If gloves are unavailable, tongs may also be used but there is an increased risk of unintentional creasing.

Read 8 Best Cowboy Hats For Women

Shaping Basics – How to Shape a Cowboy Hat

  1. Slip-on your gloves once your steamer or water is preheated or boiling!
  2. Release the steam as needed until the hat is soft and malleable. You can concentrate the steam on areas you will be shaping (such as the brim or crown).
  3. Once a malleable and slightly moist texture is achieved, gently massage the hat into the desired shape or crease. This must be done without too much hesitation before the hat cools and loses the ability to be remolded.
  4. Once the desired shape is achieved (and it may take several attempts), it is important to immediately place the hat on your head after it is cool enough. A slightly soft hat placed on your head will help the hat shape to your head for a perfect fit.
  5. Once your hat rehardens and is completely cool, you are good to go!

Stetson Men’s Bozeman Wool Felt Crushable Cowboy Hat

How to Shape a Cowboy Hat - Stetson

Read more about Cowboy Hat Shapes

Material Specifics

A kettle or steamer will work great for felt hats. These are more forgiving and superb DIY practices. Hat stiffening sprays may also be applied as a final step if you nail the perfect crease. However, palm-leaf hats do not utilize steamers. Rather, water is used to create a malleable texture. A tub large enough to fit that hat is filled with lukewarm water (we recommend distilled for the same reasons above). The hat will need to soak until it becomes moldable. Once drained and still slightly damp, you can use your fingers and hands to gently shape the hat. It’s ideal to use a hat stand for drying so there is no interference in shape.

Straw hats can also be steamed, but brims cannot be shaped without damage if there is no inner wire around the brim exterior. In most cases, straw hats with this wire can be shaped with no tools or steam. Wool cowboy hats cannot be steamed.

Helpful Hints

  • Practice makes perfect. The only way to master hat shaping is to practice the craft. YouTube has many informative and free video resources for those trying it themselves.
  • Always store a hat upside down on the crown, or allow it to dry on a hat rack.
  • Know your material! It may be worth keeping the tags and original packaging for reference.
  • It is easiest to steam from the outside to inside on the brim. Steaming close to the inside will heat the leather sweatband. This can result in damage, shrinking, or a general warped fit.
  • Use gloves even if there is no heat applied. This will prevent skin oils from marking the hat or any possible stains from your fingers
Helpful Hints - Shaping a Hat

Final Words

Have you ever shaped your own hat? It can be a helpful skill for those that want to keep their hats in tip-top condition, or prefer not to micromanage the shapes at western wear stores. Be sure to share this article, and remember, practice makes perfect!