Cowboy Hat: What It Says About You


cowboy hats
Jimmy Harrison cowboy hats from Darby, Montana. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

What Your Cowboy Hat Says About You


It’s been said that cowboys know how to tell where a fellow cowboy hails from by the shape of his hat and the rope on his 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. By no means am I a cowboy hat expert, but like any person who wears a hat, I know what I like and what looks best on my head.

Sometimes I want a Beaver fur felt hat for keeping my head warm when I’m out riding on a cold day. Other times, I prefer a straw hat for summer time horseback riding when I want my head to stay cool while still providing sun protection. My dermatologist doesn’t care what type of cowboy hat I wear, as long as it offers UPF 50 sun protection.

Your cowboy hat says a lot about you according to Tony Thompson, head wrangler at Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang, California.”You can tell a lot about where a guy is from by his hat,” says Thompson.

Checkout cowboy hats in every style here

Flat-hatter cowboy hats


cowboy, Philipsburg, Montana
Ranch at Rock Creek Cowboy in Philipsburg, Montana. Photo © Nancy D. Brown


One of my favorite places to ride horses is in Montana. I love the wide open spaces and the “anything goes” attitude that comes along with its residents. You’ll see many different shaped hats in Montana. While the “flat hatters” or “Buckaroo” hat may not have originated in Montana, it’s where I first laid eyes on this style.  Buckaroo’s or “flat hatters” have a hat with a low crown and/or a flat brim.

A flat hatter-hybrid of sorts is the standard “cattlemen’s crease” that you’ll see on rodeo cowboys. Whereas the Texas cowboys wear their hats with a “taco crease.”

Texas Cowboy hats


Texas cowboy Bob Bratcher wearing his cowboy hat in
Brazos, Texas cowboy Bob Bratcher rocking his hat. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

I’ve ridden in several places in Texas. All the cowboys and cowgirls that I met there were friendly and well mannered, like their horses. What exactly is a taco crease that is referenced in a Texas cowboy hat? While there is no history on this type of hat, or how it came to be. Instead, you’ll have to visualize the shape of a taco shell with the ends tapering downward, and that, my friends, is a Texas cowboy hat.

Next time I travel to Fort Worth, Texas, I’d like to visit the Cowgirl Hall of Fame & Museum. I had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with Hall of Fame cowgirls Stacy Westfall, Dr. Eleanor Green, Barbara Van Cleve and Cathy A. Smith. All of these professional cowgirls know how to work with horses and make a cowboy hat look good, too. I tip my hat to all these hall of fame ladies and feel fortunate to have ridden with some of them.

Hall of Fame Cowgirl Stacy Westfall working with a horse at the Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana.
Cowgirl Stacy Westfall speaks the language of horses during a workshop at the Cowgirl Spring Roundup in Montana. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Western Cowboy Hats


Rock Creek Ranch Wrangler with braids and scarf wearing her cowboy hat.
Rock Creek Ranch Cowgirl with felt hat. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

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.

However, 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.

(Checkout the  Santa Fe Felt Hat or the Western Straw hat). 

Wrangler Haddie Tal Townsend on her horse in front of the lake at Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang, California

Haddie Townsend wearing a Nevada style straw cowboy hat at Alisal Ranch in Solvang, California. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

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 Nevada style 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.

Aussi Cowboy Hat 

No matter whether you wear an Australian “Aussie style” weather proof hat with a wide brim, a cowboy hat with UPF 50 sun protection or a fedora style hat as a fashion statement, you’ve got to feel confident in your hat! I’m always adding to my hat collection. I hope to be sporting a Stetson cowboy hat the next time you see me on horseback.

I love the braided rim of this fashionable Aussi style hat. Otherwise, this Aussi hat is waterproof and has a more classic look.

Mexican Cowboy Hat

Charro Queen Kellie Ramos wearing a sombrero in San Antonio, Texas.
Charro Queen Kellie Ramos wearing a sombrero during a competition in San Antonio. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

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.


Maui Cowboy Hats

Hawaiian cowboy from Maui wearing a cowboy hat with Hawaiian greens. Fresh flowers from Maui are on his shoulders.
Maui Paniolo at the Festivals of Aloha. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

While a Hawaiian cowboy or paniolo, has been known to wear a floral lei around the hat band. In Hawaii, it’s all about the floral hat band when it comes to Pau Riders.

What does your cowboy hat say about you?

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3 thoughts on “Cowboy Hat: What It Says About You”

  1. 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.

  2. @Burl
    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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