How Does Your Hat Release Your Inner Cowboy
Selecting a cowboy hat should not be a quick or thoughtless decision. The style of hat defines you and tells everyone who you are. Since your hat will likely be the first thing people notice about you, it should convey your personality and do it with style. A properly chosen cowboy hat can give impressions ranging from a sophisticated businessman, to a steely gambler, to a rough and ready outdoorsman. On the other hand, choosing the wrong hat can make even the best wranglers look like a two-day greenhorn!
Cowboy hats come in different materials and styles. Material and construction are generally the deciding factors in price. Straw hats are the cheapest. Felt hats made of wool can be inexpensive to mid-range, while fur based felt can fetch a premium price. Felt is graded in "Xs", for example, 4X felt. The higher the grade, the denser the felt material, the stiffer the hat, and the higher the price. A small subset of cowboy hats is made of leather, usually with a wire reinforced brim to hold shape. These run a bit higher in price, and an exotic leather hat can be a few hundred dollars, but a good leather hat will probably outlast you!
A cowboy hat has three main parts that determine the style: crown, pinch, and brim. The crown is the top, vertical portion of the hat that actually sits on your head. An "open crown" means there is no crease or "bash" at the top. The pinch is the crease that is placed into the crown. And the brim is what keeps the sun out of your eyes, and rain off your neck. The shape of the brim has a large part in determining the style of cowboy hat too.
The styles below are some of the most common you will find in cowboy hats. Each can give a distinct impression, so you may want to get more than one!
If you want to look like a country western singer, the Cattleman is what you probably want. This style has become known as the "classic" cowboy hat, thanks to movies and TV shows. It features a full length top center crease, with wider "dents" on either side, and the sides of the brim are turned up. The crown is generally low, so it stays on your head better. Cattleman hats often come in white or light colors, and look great for line dancing or doing a country two step!
The Pinch Front is distinctive with its creased center, and two front dents that give the crown a triangular shape. The brim is usually turned up at the sides, and sometimes turned down in the front and back. Nearly always seen with a hat band for definition, it is a very popular style for people who want a cowboy hat slightly different from the classic Cattleman style.
Often known a Boss of the Plains, this hat was originally created by legendary hat maker John B. Stetson in 1885. It has a tall crown and wide, stiff brim to provide protection from the rain. The crown is open, but some wearers customize their Boss by putting their own bash, or crease, in it. For years, advertisements showed cowboys watering their horses by dipping their Boss hat in the watering trough, demonstrating how waterproof they were.
Gambler or Telescope
The Gambler or Telescope style hat has a flat-topped crown, and a brim smaller than a regular cowboy style, but larger than a Porkpie or Derby style. Sometimes referred to as a Nevada hat, consider this style if a larger cowboy hat looks out of place on you. A Gambler style is more likely to have the edge of the brim curled up. Since it was famously worn by Rhett Butler in the movie Gone With The Wind, it will look great if you are visiting the South!
Outback hats are an Australian cowboy style hat that is becoming popular in the U.S. They are similar to a Pinchfront, but have a taller crown, a wide brim (up to 4 inches), and the brim is curved downward front and back. Sometimes an Outback hat will have a nap on one side allowing you to fasten one side of the brim up against the crown. Many Outback hats are made of a softer felt, allowing them to be stuffed into a backpack, yet they will spring back to their original shape. Outback hats almost always have elaborate or colorful hatbands, as well. This is the perfect hat for a more casual look, or rounding up stray kangaroos!
Silent movie star, Tom Mix, was the original "King of the Cowboys," appearing in nearly 300 movies between 1909 and 1935. His hat was so recognizable and unique that it has become a style all its own. The Tom Mix style features a very tall crown, deeply creased down the center. The crown also slopes downward towards the front, making this hat unmistakable. The brim is very large, averaging five-to-six inches deep. It's like wearing an umbrella on your head! A Tom Mix hat will make you stand out in a crowd easily, and says you refuse to follow the herd!
The Gus style hat is a smaller version of the Tom Mix. The crown is not as tall, but it does slope down in the front like the Tom Mix. The brim is smaller, and curves up on the sides. It was popularized in the TV series, "Lonesome Dove," being named after the main character, but the style has been around for more than 100 years. Still, it's a distinctive hat style and has a rugged, rancher look.
The Brick style hat looks like a traditional cowboy hat with one major difference: the crown is somewhat squareish, and it has a pronounced rectangular dent in the top. The crown is rather tall with straight sides, and the brim is curled up on the ides, more pronounced to the front, giving the brim a triangular look.
The Derby hat is also known as a Bowler hat. It was actually created in England in 1849 by a gentleman named Bowler, and was popular with working class people during the Victorian era. They were brought to the U.S. by immigrants and the style caught on. Believe it or not, the Derby was the most popular hat in the Old West, mainly because they would not blow off in the wind, or when one's head was sticking out of the window of a speeding train! The Derby has a very stiff, rounded open crown, and short brim with a slight edge curl. If you are looking for a smaller hat, with a distinctive and businesslike style, consider parking a derby on your head.
The Amish Hat is similar to a Gambler or Telescope hat. It has an open crown with flat top, straight sides, and medium brim that is flat with no curve or curl. A wider fabric hatband is usually affixed to the crown. Slightly unusual, it definitely makes a statement, and looks great with a longer beard.
A good quality cowboy will last for years with proper care. You'll definitely make a statement, and people will remember you for your good taste in headgear. If you live in an area where cowboys aren't too common, a sharp looking cowboy hat will stand out and leave a lasting impression, so don't be afraid to release your inner cowboy!