Cowboy Hat: What It Says About You

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Cowboy Hat: What It Says About You

cowboy hats

Jimmy Harrison cowboy hats from Darby, Montana

It’s been said that cowboys know how to tell where a fellow cowboy hails from by the shape of their hat and the rope on their saddle. I’m no expert on the hard and fast rope vs dally ropers, but I can tell a “flat hatter” from a Texas cowboy any day.

What your hat says about you

Your hat says a lot about you according to Tony Thompson, head wrangler at Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang, California.

cowboy, Philipsburg, Montana

Ranch at Rock Creek Cowboy in Philipsburg, Montana

“You can tell a lot about where a guy is from by his hat,” says Thompson.
Flat hatters

Buckaroo’s or “flat hatters” have a hat with a low crown and flat brim. A flat hatter-hybrid of sorts is the standard “cattlemen’s crease” that you’ll see on rodeo cowboys. Where as the Texas cowboys wear their hats with a “taco crease.”
Texas cowboys

What is a taco crease? Visualize the shape of a taco shell with the ends tapering downward.

I’m told that Montana cowboys typically sport the cattleman’s crease. While a Hawaiian cowboy or paniolo, has been known to wear a floral lei around the hat band.


Jimmy Harrison, Montana

Jimmy The Hat Man Harrison

Montana hat maker

I met Jimmy ‘The Hat Man’ Harrison of Darby, Montana when I was on a horseback riding vacation at Triple Creek Ranch. Harrison had brought his gorgeous hats to the ranch for our shopping pleasure after a multi-day Klicks for Chicks trail ride into the Bitterroot Mountains.

Harrison has been making custom cowboy hats since 1994 when he apprenticed under a local hat maker from Dillon, Montana. Harrison’s hats are made of 100% beaver felt, making them water tight and preferable for year-round wear. His custom hats don’t come cheap, as they take a week to build and finish.

Code of the west

cowgirl, hat

Rock Creek Ranch Cowgirl with felt hat.

I asked Tony Thompson if there was any hat etiquette when it came to wearing a straw hat or felt hat. Thompson said that the day after Thanksgiving is felt hat time, while the day after Easter ushers in straw hat season, unless you are from Arizona or New Mexico. The southwest cowboys wear felt hats year round according to Thompson. He was quick to give credit to eight-time world champion bullrider Donnie Gay regarding the hat etiquette, but I couldn’t find any quotes from Gay on this particular cowboy hat topic.

If you wish to dispute this unwritten code of the west, I’m happy to hear from you. Do you wear your felt hat year round? If you wear a straw hat, which time of year signals the change of cowboy hats for you?

European cowboys

I haven’t had the opportunity to go on a horseback riding vacation in Italy, but I’m told that European cowboys have their own hat styles as well.  Have you seen the Butteri cowboys from Italy? Cowboys from the Maremma region of Italy, have been herding Maremmana cattle for centuries.

I have attended a Charreada in San Antonio, Texas with Mexican horsemen and women. The sombrero, with its high pointed crown and wide brim is unique to the charro.

bob bratcher, cowboy

Texas cowboy Bob Bratcher

My husband was kind enough to buy me a custom cowboy hat for Christmas a couple of years ago. I had a stampede string put on my hat because it inevitably blows off when I am loping or if a strong wind comes up.

I’m always impressed when I see wranglers wearing cowboy hats like a second skin. How do they keep their hats on their head?

“Every hat needs to be broken in,” according to Tony Thompson. “You have to wear a hat everyday so that it molds to your head,” he notes.

cowboy, paniolo

Hawaiian cowboy from Maui

Do you wear a cowboy hat? What does your hat say about you?



2017-06-27T11:45:04+00:00 January 22nd, 2014|Equestrian Photography, The Tack Box|


  1. Ahsan Idrisi January 23, 2014 at 7:08 am

    Cowboy hat is my favourite

  2. Burl L Brooks January 24, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    I have a Stetson felt hat that I’ve been wearing since 2006. It’s a pinch crown hat, and it has more miles than an ’85 tempo. I wear it all year ’round. It’s been a sun blocker, fire fanner, fly killer, wife swatter, foal swatter, rain shelter, water bucket and many, many other things in it’s life.
    I really liked this article. Very fun. I also think you can tell a lot about a fella by his choice of hat. If you folks ever get around to doing an article on gaited mules, look me up. I train gaited mules and horses.

  3. Nancy D. Brown January 24, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    I’m glad you liked the article. Your hat has experienced a lot of life!
    I had no idea there was such a thing as a gaited mule. Thanks for leaving your website information. Further research is needed on this interesting topic.

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