You’ve decided to buy your first cowboy hat or maybe you got one as a gift. Heck maybe you got your first hat like I did and your granddaddy gave it to you. No matter what the reason, now comes the unveiling. Yeah that’s right, it’s time to wear it. Who knows, maybe you are headed to a Dude Ranch. Maybe you just want to make a fashion statement. Or maybe you realize that a cowboy hat can be an incredibly effective “tool.” They keep the rain and snow off you. They keep your head warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and they help block the sun (which can be very damaging at high altitudes). Whatever the reason, you have decided it is time to purchase one.
If there is a western store near you, they can be a great resource for purchasing hats. They can measure your head, tell you what kind of hat will fit best, and tell you what kind of hat is usually worn in your area. And they will be the first to tell you that you look great in the hat!
But if you are in a more urban area, and there are no western stores nearby, you will either have to contact a hat sales company, or look on the internet. The trouble with looking online is that you quickly become overwhelmed with options. You also do not get the chance to hold the hat in your hands and try it on your head.
The big question is how should a cowboy hat fit on your head. Fortunately, it is not that complicated. But there are a few things you need to know.
A Quick History
Nothing is more iconic and representative of the American West than the cowboy. Although they originated in Mexico (called Vaqueros) cowboys in the United States played an important role in the country’s expansion through the west. There are still cowboys today stretching across the western and southwestern U.S. But you can also find them in Florida and Hawaii (known as paniolos in Hawaiian). You can really find a true cowboy anywhere where there is enough open space and horses.
Cowboys have always held a special place in the heart of Americans. The 1950’s and 1960’s saw an explosion of shows about cowboys. In 1959 there were 30 different shows running. While we have not seen the western make such a huge impact since. But they have never really gone away. Kevin Costner’s “Yellowstone” is a huge hit (at the time of this article) for the Paramount Network and is about to enter its fourth season. Cowboy hats, of course, abound on the show. But if you look carefully, you will see that they are not exactly the same as Jared Padalecki will be wearing on the reboot of “Walker, Texas Ranger” (this time simply called “Walker”).
Types Of Cowboy Hats
There are about seven different types of cowboy hats:
· The Cattleman: this is probably the most iconic, and most traditional hat. It has a slightly curled brim and has several creases in the top. You will see a lot of these in Texas.
· The Gus: this hat has a high crown which slopes down toward the front. There are three dimples on the top. You will see these in Texas, but also in Wyoming and Montana.
· The Tom Mix: this is the iconic “ten-gallon hat.” It has a much higher crown than the Gus.
· The Open Crown: the crown is more rounded and there are no dimples in it.
· The Pinched Front: the crown on this hat is V-shaped (with the bottom of the V pointed to the front. It has two pinches near the front.
· The Brick: this is very similar to the Cattleman. It also has the slightly curved brim, but the crown is squared off.
· The Gambler: this hat has a flat crown which does not rise as high as the others. It also has a very wide, flat brim.
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The truth is, you can wear any hat that you want. You do not need to necessarily fit in, and certain hats just look better (or worse) on some people. I generally wear a Cattleman even when working cattle in Wyoming. Most of the other guys wear either a Gus or Tom Mix, but I just don’t find them as comfortable.
Fitting The Hat
While your hat does not need to fit in with what others are wearing, it does need to fit your head properly. Modern cowboy hats are made out of felt, straw, or sometimes leather. The felt hats will keep your head warm in cold weather. The straw hats are a must if you are in very hot places like Texas or Louisiana. Your hat should follow the natural shape of your head. It cannot be too loose because it will either blow off or sink down below your eyebrows. It also cannot be too tight because you will quickly develop a horrific headache. You will also end up with a crease across your forehead (that may last several hours). To measure your head, you only need a cloth measuring tape.
· Take the tape and put it about two fingers above your eyebrow,
· Wrap the tape around your head, just above your ears.
· The back of the tape should come down to about four fingers above the base of the scull.
· Measure all the way to the start of the tape.
It will be easier if you have a helper. They can make sure that the tape is even around your head.
Once you have the final length in inches, you will need to refer to the size chart for the hat you want to purchase. Every company that sells cowboy hats online includes a size chart. This will tell you what size hat you need to order (based on the measurements you just took).
The shape of your head:
Cowboy hats come in two general shapes: round oval and long oval. Some companies actually break this up into multiple categories (such as long, wide oval). It can be tricky to determine which shape your head is. If you have a cowboy hat to try on, it is much easier to tell. A salesperson at a western store can help you decide. But if you are ordering online and do not have a hat for reference, there are a couple of things you can do:
· Have a friend look down at the top of your head. You can usually tell the general shape.
· Measure the length and width of your head. Stand against a wall, and have a helper put the measuring tape on the wall, and measure from the insides of each ear. Then turn sideways and have them measure from the front of your forehead to the back of your head. You will not get exact results, but the numbers will help you decide if your head is round or oval.
· Look at another hat that you wear. All hats will conform to your head, so look at the shape the hat is in. You may be able to tell if it is round or oval.
How to wear the hat:
When you get your hat in, check to see if it fits correctly. Holding it by the front of the brim, put it on your head. The front should be about two fingers above your eyebrows, and the back should be about four fingers from the base of your scull. It should be snug in the front and the back, but there should be a little of room at your temples.
If the hat does not fit:
You finally get your hat in and you find that it just does not fit right. Many companies will allow returns and exchanges, but there are a few things you can do at home to help make it fit better:
If the hat is too big, you can line the brim with a foam strip. You can buy foam strips that are specifically made to fit into cowboy hats. You can also buy a strip at a hardware store or a clothing material store. In a pinch, you can stuff paper-towels into the thin sweatband inside the hat. There are also methods to stretch a cowboy hat that we have written about as well.
If the hat is too small, there are several ways to stretch it:
· If the hat is just a little too tight, try wearing it for a while. Cowboy hats are designed to conform to your head, and it will naturally loosen up pretty quickly.
· You can stretch the hat by spraying water on the crown. Take a blow-dryer and dry the outside of the hat until it is only a little damp. Put the hat on your head and wear it for a few hours (or until it is completely dry).
· You can also stretch the hat by using steam. If you have a clothing steamer, use it on the crown of the hat. Hold it close for a few seconds and repeat several times. As with the water spraying method, use a blow-dryer on the outside of the hat until it is only a little damp. Put the hat on your head and wear it for a few hours (or until it is completely dry).
Now You Know How A Cowboy Hat Should Fit – Enjoy
So there you are! You’ve got the cowboy hat. A good quality cowboy hat will last you for many years (even if you are a real cowboy who is working cattle every day). There are a couple of important things you should remember about your hat. First, when you put it down, it should be upside down (with the open part for your head facing up). Second, when you grab the hat, hold it by the brim. Doing these two things will help protect the hat and allow it to keep the same shape. Never touch another cowboy’s (or cowgirl’s) hat. And finally (and perhaps most importantly), never put your cowboy hat on the bed. That’s bad luck!