Wearing and Etiquette
Buying Cowboy Hats
Q: I have a specific hat in mind that I'd like to purchase but I can't find it. I've had no success with the local shops. Do you have any suggestions?
A: A lot of local shops will typically have your standard issue cowboy hats. So it's best to check with some of the standard online retailers such as:
And if you can't find it there, check out what's possible with a custom hatter such as:
If you're looking for a specific hat worn in a particular movie or by a particular actor, this site sells there's broken down by Actors, Movies, TV Shows etc:
Q: I am blonde and don't know if I should get a black hat, a tan hat or a straw hat? Does it matter?
A: Get one of each! No, it doesn’t matter which one you get since you don’t match a hat color to hair. Blonde hair looks great with any of those types. I generally would stick with felt for cooler weather and straw when it is hot.
Q: I recently ordered a hat online and it came with a plastic sleeve around the inside of the head band. I wondered if this should be removed before wearing. I ask because it is sewn into the seam of the band and seems very difficult to remove. At first I of course thought it should come out easily and tried to pull it out before wearing the hat but it won't budge!
A: The plastic is to protect the hat from sweat and that some people remove it and some don't.
Cowboy Hat Fit
Q: I have a really big head so most hats don't seem to fit it. How can I get one that fits my head?
A: Hat sizes are calculated in this way: Take a cloth tape measure around the portion of your head that the hat would sit on and mark it. Let's say your measurement was 23 1/3". Divide that value by 3.145 which gives 7.4. The closest hat size to this is 7 3/8 (7.37). Normally most hat sizes appear from 6 3/4 to about 7 3/4. If you need larger than that you might try to get a 7 3/4 stretched slightly if you're only a fraction bigger than that. But if you need even more space, pretty much your only option would be to go to a custom hat maker.
Q: Does my head actually expand and contract with the weather? I used to have a hat that fit but now it’s too loose – did my head shrink?
A: Amazingly, if you gain or lose weight, you also gain or lose around your cranium as well! If you buy a hat and it's snug and at some later point you find it too loose or too tight, check the scale to see if you equivalently gained or lost weight recently.
Q: I recently bought a new beaver felt cowboy hat online for a good price and thought I had got the correct size however upon it arriving it was slightly too small, is there anything I can do to slightly increase the diameter of the hat without damaging it, I don't think there is much I can do, and I'm hoping by wearing it, it will slowly become a better fit.
A: A couple of things. You can go to a hatter and ask them to stretch it out for you. If you don’t have access to a cowboy hattery, then you can get a hat stretcher like this one:
This allows you to gently stretch a hat with a bit of steam and some patience.
Q: How can I get a hat to stay on my head while riding?
A: If your hat is popping off your head too easily it may be a bad fit but that's easily remedied. The main solutions would be to either:
1. Get a hat string to tie the hat down to your head
2. Get some 1" wide foam insulation tape (like the kind for weather stripping) and place pieces inside the hat band. One side will be sticky so it will stay in place once applied. The foam makes it snug and adjustable - the great thing about that solution is that it is invisible and highly adaptable depending on your specific shaping need.
Q: I have a beaver fur felt cowboy hat with a self conforming sweatband. I get a red band on my forehead when I take it off and it fits very snug. My question is is it too tight? I do not get headaches or feel much pressure when wearing it...is this just a very good tight fit because it is self conforming? I love your site.
A: The key thing is that it's comfortable to wear while not being too loose or too tight. Now the term "too tight" is really for you to determine. The self conforming part just gives a bit of space between the top part of the sweatband and the crown to provide more give in the case it needs to stretch to fit your head. So only you can judge if it's too snug or not.
Shaping a Cowboy Hat
Q: Can you shape wool hats the same way you shape felt? What about straw?
A: Typically when talking about shaping a hat we're talking about rabbit, beaver or another type of fur so that applies to felt hats. Steaming will not help with the shaping of wool hats so once there is a problem with that kind of hat, you can't easily fix it yourself. Straw hats usually have a wire in the edge of the brim and this allows you to carefully manipulate the brim shape but the crown is pretty much unchangeable once it has been originally set.
Q: Are you aware of a service that reshapes stetson felt hat? I would do it myself, but I don't believe I have the correct tools to do so.
A: Pretty much any western hatter will do shaping or in more extreme cases, a re-blocking of the hat which rebuilds it from scratch. The trick is to find a hatter ideally that is close to you. If you can’t find that, then you’ll have to send it away to be worked on as long as you specifically spell out to them what you wanted to be done.
If it's a minor adjustment, you can do that yourself by holding the hat over the spout of a boiling kettle and then you could adjust the shape in the specific areas that need the changes.
Q: I'm outdoors in the elements a lot and my felt cowboy hat has begun to droop on the brim. I tried using a steamer to manually manipulate the brim so that it would take their original form but it didn't seem to work. Did I not let the steamer get them wet enough?
A: The steam isn't the issue, it's the fact that the hat has lost it's ability to hold a shape. You could either get some hat fabric stiffener from any cowboy hat store that carries it or just take it to a hatter to stiffen it back up. Here’s a link for cowboy hat stiffener for example although there are many other examples if you search Google…
Q: I just purchased a 10x winter cowboy hat. It sits away from my head on the sides a bit. It sort of rocks on my head. Will it conform to my head? The hat says oval but it would have to be a slightly longer oval to fit my head. It's the right size, I just don't like the way it sits.
A: Hats usually come as round, oval or long oval with most people needing the regular oval shape. If you have space on the sides of your head then your head needs a long oval shape. I'm not sure how easy it is to reshape a hat to a longer oval since that involves manipulating the crown of the hat.
At worst, a hatter would likely have to reblock the hat which means it would be rebuilt into the correct size and shape. Did you buy it in person or online without trying it? Personally, I would get my head properly measured before ordering a hat sight unseen.
Q: I recently bought a Stetson Mist Grey hat and when I got it home and started to wear it, it felt a little too tall for me. It's not a cartoonish ten-gallon hat-like or anything, but it seems a little too deep. Do you have any suggestions other than perhaps wear which would "shape" it a little more to my head, on how I can make it look less tall?
A: If the crown is too tall (which I often find with many off the shelf hats for me), then I would suggest taking it to a proper cowboy hatter and ask them to shorten the crown for you. Depending upon the type of crease you may find that the top of the hat will start to hit your head so it can be a little bit tricky depending upon that crease and your head shape.
With felt it's easy enough to address. With straw however, you're pretty much stuck with the crown you get when that crown is first shaped.
Cowboy Hat Care and Repair
Q: I've noticed that my favorite Stetson shantung straw hat tends to discolor a bit around the sweat band and sweat hole areas Is there an easy way to remove the discoloration, or is that just something I have to live with?
A: A product like OxyClean might take it out. Some people use that for cleaning stained textiles and it seems to take the stains right out. No reason to think that OxyClean might do the same for straw. Another thought was "Orvus Paste" which is supposed to be quite safe for various materials. Disclaimer - use these products at your own risk.
Personally, I think it give a straw hat character - as long as you don't want to wear it anywhere fancy :-) I have a hat with the exact same stains and I just keep it as my "old favorite" hat.
Q: Last night my young son was on stage with Trace Adkins and he gave him his signed cowboy hat. Obviously I'd like to preserve and display this unique item, but nowhere can I find any way to do so. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Well, I'm sure it's a decent quality hat so it should last forever if it's kept in a normal environment (not too hot, humid, not enclosed in a musty space etc). You could rig up something to sit the hat on that would support the base of the crown gently (repeat - gently) and maybe put it in a wooden base Acrylic container (with air circulation of course) such as...
Q: Do you recommend a plastic hat protector for cowboy hats in the rain?
A: Not really. Felt cowboy hats are naturally water repellant so I think they're generally not needed and unattractive. If you have a hat that seems like it just absorbs water (think wool) then use a water repellant treatment for hats - it works wonders.
Q: The stitching that hold my sweatband on the inside of my hat came loose. I tried to sew it back on buy the material has deteriorated - where can I get a new sweatband?
A: Try this site just a bit down the page - this is a great site for all kinds of hat parts:
Or you can have a company like smithbilt do it for you:
Q: I have an old leather cowboy hat where the brim has lost it's shape and the crown has collapsed a bit. What can I do to restore this as a hatter I visited said they couldn't do much to fix it?
A: If it's a leather, as opposed to a felt, hat check out this site that gives some advice on treatments for a leather hat...
Other than that you may be out of luck. Check with a company that specifically does hat renovations such as this:
and send photos and an explanation of what you need. Folks who specialize in that kind of renovation can more accurately tell what can and cannot be done. Remember that sometimes hats can sometimes be beyond help if they are too far gone.
Wearing Cowboy Hats
Q: I was having a discussion with my buddies about wearing a felt cowboy hat in the summer. We all have different opinions about this subjects and just want to hear if you think it's ok to wear a felt hat in the summer?
A: It's mostly about comfort. In hot weather straw is cooler hence mostly worn in summer and visa versa with felt. If however the summer weather is cool, then felt might be comfortable and appropriate. Remember that cowboys used to have one hat for all year long!
Q: Generally if you’re at a restaurant, is it ok to leave your hat on? I haven't seen any consistency in restaurant environments. What about if you're travelling by airplane?
A: In the old days it used to be standard to take your hat off in a restaurant however if you go there and there is no where to safely lay your hat, then I would keep wearing it. I typically try to lay it in an empty chair or on a hat rack (as if those exist in restaurants anymore!) if possible but often will just leave it in my vehicle so I simply don’t have to worry about it (note - do not do that on hot summer days!).
As for the airplane, I don’t wear it because it bumps the back of the seat. If I have a hat box, it goes there and if it’s a beat up hat anyways, I might even just toss it in the bin above. If I don't have a hat box, and it’s a better hat that I don't want damaged, I’ll typically just keep it gently on my lap. If you’re tall enough though, you can probably just get away with wearing it.
Society is less hat-savvy that it used to by since it’s really far less common of an item. So the “rules” are a lot more relaxed than they used to be.
Q: I recently purchased my first real cowboy hat, a 5X cowboy hat for about $160 and I was wondering if you would consider it a "quality" cowboy hat. Approximately how long do you think it could last me if taken good care of , and it would see some Ranch work at least 1 to 2 days a week? My uncle told me that with most hat companies you want to stay between 4x and 8x, anything higher would require more care the higher you go. Do you agree with that?
A: Once upon a time, the X’s meant a lot more than they do now. Usually you get what you pay for with hats so this one I’m sure is fine.
I can partially understand the answer from your uncle. Look at it this way – I have a 5X hat (~$150) I beat around in and then I have a nice 30X (~$600) that I usually wear on better occasions. Now if I ding the cheaper hat or it gets dirty I’m not too concerned about it. With the other one I am more careful because it cost a whole lot more. But do I NEED to baby the second hat? Not really. The higher X hats have more beaver fur (in their beaver/rabbit mix) which is more water resistant than the lower X hats. So if it gets wet, the beaver will likely repel water better ( and I just hate those plastic rain hat protectors – do you see beavers walk around with plastic raincoats? Well, if you do then let National Geographic know because that would be a story…)
Anyhow, more X’s tend to be better so you get what you pay for. Your hat will likely give you many good years of service if you just do some basic maintenance tasks on it. Of course if it’s being stomped on in a feedlot every day then it won’t last quite so long…
Q: It doesn't seem like a 10 gallon cowboy hat could really hold that much water. Why is it called that?
A: Well actually the 10 gallon hat never referred to actual holding capacity of a hat, it was a referrence to a mexican term "Galleon" that dealt with the brim size. The hats linings were waterproofed but at most it could hold only a few quarts or half a gallon or so.