How To Wear A Cowboy Hat

Last Updated on November 17, 2020

Shopping for a new cowboy hat, especially as a first-time buyer, can be an overwhelming experience. Unlike a standard ball cap, there are many aspects of how to properly wear a cowboy hat. Showing up in an incorrect hat can be a huge faux pau. Here’s how you can avoid making these common etiquette mistakes when wearing your new cowboy hat.

Occasion – How To Wear A Cowboy Hat 

The first aspect of properly wearing a cowboy hat is choosing the occasion. Not only will this impact your budget, but the occasion for wear can help determine the color and material you will need. For example, a western pleasure rider looking for a show-ring hat will have many different requirements than a day-worker moving cattle. Traditionally speaking, felt hats are used for events, formal occasions, or meetings. They are also preferred for wintertime-use due to the added heat retention in comparison to straw hats.

How To Wear a Cowboy Hat - Occasion

Proper Way To Wear A Cowboy Hat According To Season

Season matters! Have you ever heard the Labor Day white rule? The same applies to cowboy hats. Traditionally, felt hats are reserved for the time period between Labor Day and the long May weekend. Spring and summer months are reserved for straw hats. However, this unwritten rule is loosely followed in warmer climates or for special occasions.

How Should A Cowboy Hat Fit- Fit and Shaping

Hats are sold both pre-shaped and unshaped. Uncreased hats with open brims are desirable for a customized look or specific dimensions. Although the “bull rider” crease is increasing in popularity, it is unlikely you’ll see this in a western pleasure show ring. If you do not have a preferred crease style or predetermined measurement for the brim and crease, most hat shapers will recommend starting on just the outside of your eye. This prevents a “taco” appearance.

Cowboy hat sizing, like other hats, is based on the head circumference with a conversion chart. Unlike adjustable ball caps, a cowboy hat must have a precise fit. It should comfortable enough for all-day wear, but snug enough to stay on during winds or riding a horse. Although females have the option of pinning a hat, most males do not. This means there needs to be a precise fit.

Kangaroo Cowboy Hat

Read more about the Best Cowboy Hats For Women

Cowboy Hat Etiquette- Dos and Dont’s

Cowboy hats come from a long line of tradition and carry their own customs and courtesies.  Although there is some variation in geographic locations, be sure to know and memorize these basics before sporting your new hat to an event.

On or Off?

When first stepping into a building or event, it is customary to remove the hat. However, there are many events where it is customary to wear hats indoors, especially for agricultural events and in areas of the southwest. For informal occasions, it is acceptable to put a cowboy hat back on. Some formal occasions will dictate hats remain off. Again, this varies greatly by location. For example, in many parts of Texas, it is customary to wear a cowboy hat as a finishing piece to a formal ensemble for western events. Hats should be removed during prayer, indoor weddings of funerals, or flag-related events such as the National Anthem or Pledge of Allegiance. It is customary to hold your hat in your left hand with the right hand over your heart or to hold the hat directly over your heart. Hats are to be removed when:

  • Introduced to a woman or an elder
  • Entering a private residence unless otherwise stated
  • When dining at a table
  • Giving condolences

When Your Hat’s Off

Although it may be easy to assess a situation and determine when it’s time to remove a hat, where do you place it? Although there is some debate, the general rule for hat handling and removal is to always remove the hat by the bottom of the crown. Using the top of the crown can result in pinching or excessive creasing. Using the brim will decrease the lifespan and shape as it is the weakest part of a cowboy hat. Cowboy hats should be placed upside down on the crown to avoid creasing or changing the brim shape. This also allows adequate airflow (if any drying of the inside band is needed). Although hard “hat cans” are recommended, using the original box can work for storage so long as the hat is upside down. Leaving a hat in a hot or damp environment can cause warping or shrinking.

When Your Hat’s Off

Final Tips on How To Wear A Cowboy Hat 

Wearing a cowboy hat with your ensemble comes with some responsibility, but these traditions make the overall look well-worth the effort. Remember- remove hats when entering a building to assess the situation. And never touch another’s cowboy hat.

What is your go-to hat for events? Be sure to share this article now that felt-season is upon us!