Your Guide to Choosing the Best Cowboy Hat

Choosing the right western cowboy hat is important for both fit and function. The discipline you ride, the shape of your face, and your personal style determine the type of cowboy hat you might want, so you can find one that looks and feels great. To help narrow the list down, we created this guide covering parts, shapes, brim styles, and materials, so you’ll be ready for the ranch or show ring in no time!

The Anatomy of a Cowboy Hat

The Anatomy of a Cowboy Hat

Brim - often shaped, the brim is the wide material that extends around the circumference of the crown to provide shade and protection from the elements. It is sometimes known as a bill.

Hatband - the hatband, which wraps all the way around the base of the crown, can be thick or thin and as decorated as desired.

Crease – the crease, or groove, is how the crown is shaped on top. It usually looks like the hat has been pinched or indented.

Crown - the crown is the dome-like part of the hat that fits on your head.

Dent - dents are symmetrical notches on both sides of the crown that run perpendicular to the crease.

Roll - the roll refers to the curved-up shape of the brim’s sides, creating the hat’s arch and defining the overall shape.

Different Cowboy Hat Materials

Felt Cowboy Hats

Felt cowboy hats are made from wool or fur felt to keep riders warm. Rabbit is sometimes used as a felt fur source, but beaver is more common and considered higher quality because the barbed hair interlocks to repel water and withstand regular wear. These are mostly worn at events and during the colder months.

Note that the number of “Xs” on a felt hat label indicates the percent of fur used. The Xs might be displayed as a series, like XXXXX, or as a number paired with an X. The higher the number or the more Xs shown generally signify the higher quality grade.

Straw Cowboy Hats

Straw hats provide better airflow and are lighter weight than felt hats. They are generally less expensive as well, but they are not as waterproof. Similar to felt cowboy hats, an X rating indicates the quality. Some straw hats might have a tighter weave or heavier material, adding to the durability.

Straw hats are traditionally worn in the summers between Memorial Day and Labor Day. “Felt season” occurs in the remaining months when cowboys traditionally wore warmer clothing and needed a hat that did not allow rain or snow to seep in. Felt hats are often viewed as more formal than straws, so if you are attending a fancy Western event during the summer, a felt might be appropriate to wear.

Cowboy Hat Shapes and Styles

Cowboy Hat Shapes and Styles

Cattleman - The Cattleman is the most traditional style, featuring three creases in the crown and a slightly curled brim, which helped cowboys pull their hats down far enough to stay put from rain and wind.

Pinched Front Crease - A pinched Front Crease hat presents a sharp V-shaped crown with dual pinches at the front.

Boss of the Plains - The Boss of the Plains is simpler, with a round, flat brim and a smooth, tall rounded crown. This style was the first cowboy hat ever created, thanks to John B. Stetson in 1865. Over time, cowboys added dents and creases or adjusted the brims according to their needs.

Brick Crease - As the name implies, the Brick Crease is shaped to look like a brick that could sit perfectly on the crown of the hat. It was originally designed as a modification of the Cattleman.

Gamblers Crease - The Gamblers Crease offers a wide, flat brim paired with a flat crown to prevent hot air from accumulating.

Open Crown Crease - Often associated with the Boss of the Plains, an Open Crown Crease is creaseless and has a rounded top with a round, flat brim.

Ridge Top - The Ridge Top is similar to the Cattleman but is taller with more severe creases and ridges on the crown.

Dakota - Favored by many bull riders, the Dakota is also similar to the Cattleman but grants a rectangle crease on the crown.

Gus - The famous Gus style has a steep slope in the high crown toward the front with three creases. The style of the crown traps hot air to keep one’s head warm during cold temperatures.

Learn More About Cowboy Hats

What is the most popular cowboy hat?

The most popular cowboy hat style is the Cattleman. This hat is especially popular for ranchers and other working cowboys and cowgirls.

How do I choose the best cowboy hat shape and style?

To choose the best cowboy hat shape and style, determine which type is most commonly worn in your discipline. While not every style works best for everyone, you can likely find a hat with slight modifications that flatter your head and face shape. If you are shopping for a custom cowboy hat, professional hat shapers can cut and mold the hat to perfectly fit the size of your head and suit your face. Ultimately, the right cowboy hat is one that fits you and feels comfortable. It should not easily shake off or slide around on your head. At the same time, the sides of your head should not feel pinched, leading to a headache.

Remember, cowboy hats typically have a small bow attached to the sweatband on the inside, indicating that the bow side of your hat goes on the back of your head.

Cowboy Hat Storage

How do I store a cowboy hat?

When you are not wearing your cowboy hat, place it upside down, or brim side up, on a flat surface, so you do not damage the brim shape. Better yet, set your hat on a hat rack while it airs out. For long-term storage to fully protect your hat, invest in a hat can - perfect for travel and keeping your hat sharp! You can also buy special brushes and sponges to clean off any dirt before you store it away.