The No Horsing Around Guide to Cowboy Hats for Men and Women
If you’ve done any shopping around for cowboy hats, you’ve noticed how many different styles are out there. From the iconic cowboy hats for men like Clint Eastwood and John Wayne to the modern cowboy-ish hats hipsters wear, there’s a lot to consider when buying one.
Cowboy hat styles have changed so much throughout the years. But picking the right style of cowboy hat can be confusing, especially if you are shopping around for your first one.
With the varieties of unique hats available today, it’s easy to show off your personality with the right hat for you.
To learn more about cowboy and cowgirl hats and what to look for in the perfect hat for you, keep reading.
A Brief History of Cowboy Hats
Cowboy hats were developed out of necessity. Before THE cowboy hat–the one we think of when we hear the word “cowboy hat”– was designed, cowboys wore all sorts of hats. Everything from Tophats to Civil War hats were worn by the first cowboys and ranchers in the American West.
And while these designs provided some protection from the sun and rain, they weren’t ideal.
It wasn’t until John Stetson that cowboy hats for men were transformed forever. Stetson came from a long line of hat makers. But when this East Coaster fell ill to tuberculosis in the 1860s, he headed to the wild west to recover and try his hand at striking gold.
While mining in Colorado, Stetson made blankets using his family’s special felting technique. Eventually, he created what would be the basic design of the cowboy hat–a hat with a high crown with a brim broad enough to provide shade and protection from the rain.
Little did he know that this ingenious design was about to turn into an empire. Stetson sold that first hat for $5. Excited about the possibilities, he decided to go into business selling his new hat.
He borrowed $60 from his sister to start his hat shop in Philly. Stetson’s early design was called the “Boss of the Plains,” which is now what we generally see as THE cowboy hat style.
Years later, with his practical, quality hats and business savvy, Stetson would prove that he truly did strike gold in his time out West with the design of the cowboy hat.
Here’s something you might not know…
Early cowboys used their hats in almost any way they could. From scooping water with it for himself or his horse to using the hat to give directions to other ranch hands to steering his horse, the cowboy hat was an important tool for ranch workers.
Though the basic style of the cowboy hats for men remains the same, the hat itself is now worn by cowboys and non-cowboys alike.
8 Cowboy Hat Styles
Stetson’s design created uniformity and made it easy to spot a cowboy hat. The high crown and broad-brim are the tells. But cowboy hats for men come in different styles that give each hat character. They also help the wearer express their personality through the style of hat.
The top part of the hat is the crown (where the crown of your head goes). The crease refers to the indentation or the “pinch” at the top of the crown.
The style of hat is typically seen in the crown and crease of the hat. Let’s explore a few common styles of cowboy hats for men:
1. The Cattleman
The Cattleman is the most classic, basic, and oldest crease on a cowboy hat. Cattlemen back in the day wanted a hat that differentiated them from a rodeo cowboy. But the hat still had to be practical.
So the Cattleman crease was designed taller and more narrow so it could withstand the storms. It can be pulled down more snugly on the head so it won’t blow away in windy or rainy weather.
These crowns sit 4 to 5 inches tall with one crease down the center and two more creases (one along each side of the center crease). The brim is slightly upcurled on both sides.
This style of hat is frequently worn for special occasions like weddings or a fun night on the dance floor. Most are made of felt but there are more being made from straw these days too.
2. The Gus
A close cousin to The Cattleman, The Gus has the same creases and standard height as The Cattleman. Its biggest difference is The Gus has a pinch in the front of the crown.
With the forward slope and narrow front-end of the crown, The Gus is for the gentleman to easily lift the hat off his head and greet ladies with a charming bow.
3. The Tom Mix (aka The Montana)
Another cousin of The Cattleman is The Montana, also known as the Ten-Gallon Hat. It maintains the basic style of The Gus but bigger–much, much bigger.
It has the same trio of creases at the top and the pinch at the front of the crown, giving it the appearance of sloping forward. However, unlike The Gus and Cattleman, the crown of The Montana can reach 6.5 inches!
Viewed as THE hat of the American cowboy hat style, it was originally worn by the cowboys of Montana and surrounding areas. But after it became a Hollywood icon, cowboys across the country picked it up as their hat of choice.
This cowboy hat style was made famous by Hollywood’s first Western star, Tom Mix, who donned it in many of his 291 films! The Tom Mix has two slight variations though. It has a deeper pinch in the front-end of the crown and the brim of the Tom Mix has a half-inch upturn.
Though this hat is rumored to hold ten gallons of water (hence the nickname), it most likely earned its Ten-Gallon Hat title from the Spanish word galón, meaning “braid.” This refers to a braid that is around the brim and not a hat that is capable of holding 10 gallons of water.
4. The Brick
Here’s another cowboy hat style that’s relative to The Cattleman. It has a crown that is more square (rather than oval) and the right and left sides of the brim to have an upturn. The look gives it a more dramatic look and resembles a brick.
It’s a great choice to withstand windy or rainy weather and looks great for a fun night out or a fancy wedding.
5. The Derby or The Bowler
The Derby (known as The Bowler in the U.S.) was designed in England in the mid-1800s. It was worn by the working class in England and made its way to the U.S. by immigrants. The hat fits so snugly and well that the U.S. West immediately gravitated to the hat. Rumor has it that it is so well shaped that it will never be blown off your head, even when riding trains.
The Derby/Bowler has a round, creaseless crown. Traditional ones had a slight upturn on either the right or left brim. A Western Derby has a longer brim that is upturned on both sides of the crown.
6. The Gambler (aka Telescope Crease)
You can probably guess how this hat got its name. Old Western movies often had their gamblers wearing these unique cowboy hats. But it wasn’t uncommon to see rich landowners wearing this hat too.
The wide brim provides recluse from the sun, but what makes this style so unique is its short, flat crown. It has a Telescope Crease, styled after the hats the Mexican cowboys wore while working in Nevada.
The shape and low height of the crown prevented hot air from gathering in the hat and the wide, flat brim provided sun protection throughout the day.
7. The Open Crown
The Open Crown was made popular by the marketing efforts of Stetson. Of all the cowboy hat styles out there, this one almost looks like a sombrero.
It has a rounded crown without any crease or dimples. The brim is often big and upcurled all around or just on the sides like a Cattleman. This hat is sometimes also referred to as the Ten-Gallon Hat and was seen in an early Stetson advertisement of a cowboy giving water to his horse from an Open Crown hat.
8. The Pinched Front
The Pinched Front is a flattering style for soft jawlines and helps make the face look thinner. Because of this, many cowgirls prefer The Pinched Front as a great alternative to The Cattleman.
The crown’s crease makes a diamond or teardrop shape. With the pinch in the front-end, there are typically dents on the crown and either side of the crease. The crown is similar to a traditional fedora with the brim of the classic cowboy hat styles. The brim can be either flat or with a slight upturn and is wide.
Sorry, I know that was a lot of information – but I get passionate about this kind of stuff.
What to Consider When Choosing a Good Cowboy Hat
Finding the right cowboy hat is an empowering feeling. And with a few considerations, you can make sure your next purchase is perfect.
Here’s what to think about and look for for your next cowboy hat purchase:
Felt or straw? Which is better?
Felt is a great material for cowboy hats. It’s thick enough to shade the sun. And it’s durable enough to hold water and still maintain its shape for years.
High-quality felt for cowboy hats is typically made of beaver fur. But wool and other materials can be used as well. Felt hats have the classic look and work well in formal or informal places.
Straw is an excellent material choice, especially in warmer and humid environments or during the summer. They range from loose and floppy to firm and durable, depending on the tightness of the weave. They are easy to dress down for casual bars and dance floors.
Both felt and straw cowboy hats are easy to clean. Felt can be washed and straw reacts well to a wet cloth and spot cleaning. If you have a wool hat, it would be best to have it dry cleaned.
Hat makers of old used to mark their fur and fur blended hats with an X-Factor on the inside of the hat. They would rate the hat from 1X-10X. The higher the number, the higher the quality. But there is no industry standard now.
Numbers now range from 1X to 10,000X and are more of a marketing hype than a true reflection of the quality. It’s best to determine quality yourself from the look and feel than relying on the X-Factor.
Pro Tip: You don’t want to bring your most expensive, fanciest hat out line dancing. Save it for your next formal event instead and snag something stylish and dependable for your night out.
What will look good with your face shape and overall style?
The Pinched Front is a favorite among cowgirls because it’s flattering to a feminine face. Round faces may want something less round while someone with a strong jawline may look good in a hat with strong, angular lines in the crown and crease.
Besides the shape of the hat and length of the brim, think about color. Do you want a neutral to match many outfits? Will this hat be your go-to for a while? Or are you looking for something flashy for one or two special events?
A unique buckle or hatband can make your cowboy hat style stand out and pull together an entire outfit. Here are a few western shirts, jeans, and boot suggestions for piecing together the perfect outfit to compliment your new hat pick-up.
Is it possible to overheat?
Think about where you plan to wear your new cowboy hat. You want a material that breathes, especially if you plan on dancing and sweating the night away. Felt may be too hot, especially in summer months.
While the hat needs to be tight enough to fit properly without falling off, a hat that’s too tight can inhibit breathability. And the last thing you want is to be uncomfortable all night long!
Country Dancing Tonight’s Top 3 Picks for Cowboy Hats for Men and Women
Perfect Spring or Summer Straw Hat
A breathable, Stetson Onyx hat are great cowboy hats for men and women alike. It is made of straw and shapeable, meaning you can change the brim up curl to suit your style or the event. The black will go with almost any outfit and is sure to help slim the face.
It’s a sturdy and good-looking hat that should complement many personalities without breaking the bank. The one caveat–this hat runs a little small so make sure you size properly when ordering!
A Classic Wool Cowboy Hat
This classic Stetson’s Stallion line Oakridge Wool hat is the perfect staple for any country line dancing fan. The hat belongs to Stetson’s affordable Stallion line of hats. It’s a bit stiffer than a beaver felt hat, but still fits comfortably. It can withstand many, frequent wear.
It’s a great shape for people with a narrower face or strong jawline and comes in three colors: black, brown, and white. The buckle is a nice finishing touch to this fantastic dress-up or dress-down hat.
A Badass Leather Hat…That Keeps Cool
American Hat Makers’ Plainsman hat will make you feel like the badest cowboy or cowgirl in the room. The buffalo nickel hatband is a stylish detail of this all-leather hat.
But this hat isn’t all looks. It’s waterproof and provides sun protection. Choose between a rich mocha or black color. The best part is you can shape the brim to suit your face, the event and your mood for the night.
The Plainsman hat is sure to grab the attention of the room and be a great conversation starter in any social setting.
Why Should You Wear a Cowboy Hat When Line Dancing?
Well, considering your line dancing venue carries cups, you won’t need to scoop any water out of a well with your Stetson. The top 3 reasons to wear a cowboy hat while line dancing is going to be for style, attention, or tradition.
Sporting a tall ten-gallon hat is a great way to attract attention and show the dance floor you’re confident and fun to be around. It also can make you more approachable or at least get a few chuckling reactions from your pals.
And if you need a few dance pointers Here’s a few good articles to bring you up to speed for line dancing or partner dancing so you can get out there and dance confidently and prepared…
20 Beginner Line Dances You Need to Know!
Learning the Basic Country Two-Step Dance
53 line dancing steps you need to know
Wear What Makes You Feel Confident
No matter what cowboy hat or cowboy hat style you choose, just make sure you feel confident in it. Whether you’re a newbie to line dancing or a seasoned pro, the right hat can make all the difference in how you feel and how fun your night is.
Make sure you find what’s practical for you and the event, and after that, if you feel good in it, it’s the right one for you. So brush up on your dance moves, grab your boots and hat and I’ll see you out on the dance floor!