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The Cowboy Hat

Interview any Brit (and hundreds of other eastern countrymen) and they will

tell you that the cowboy hat is a symbolic and iconic emblem associated with

the United States. The cowboy hat is a prominent element in the western films

they enjoy, the country songs they listen to and the masculine image

portrayed in American advertisements (think Marlboro cigarettes, Jimmy Dean

sausage and Dodge Ram trucks).

I choose to wear a high-crowned, wide-brimmed, soft-felt hat best known as

the defining piece of attire representing the North American cowboy and

recognized around the world as part of Old West values, lifestyle and



The concept of a broad-brimmed hat with a high crown worn by a rider on

horseback can be seen as far back as the Mongolian horsemen of the 13th

century. The tall crown provides insulation and the wide brim provides shade

and is useful in hot and sunny climates (very wide brims were inspired by

the sombrero of Mexico).

In early days, European-Americans in the Western United States originally

had no standard headwear. People moving West wore many styles of hat,

including top hats, bowlers, remains of Civil War headgear, and sailor hats.

Contrary to popular belief, it was the bowler and not the cowboy hat that was

the most popular in the American West, prompting Lucius Beebe to call it "the

hat that won the West".

Hard-working cowboys began wearing wide-brimmed and high-crowned hats

adopted from the Mexican Vaqueros before the invention of the modern

design and various spin-offs.

John Batterson Stetson is credited for originating the modern day American

Cowboy Hat.


The original "Boss of the Plains" hat, manufactured by Stetson in 1865, was

flat-brimmed, had a straight sided crown, with rounded corners.

These light-weight, waterproof hats were natural in color with four-inch crowns

and brims and were typically fitted to each head size.

While only making one style of hat, they came in different qualities ranging

from one-grade material at five dollars apiece to pure beaver felt hats for thirty

dollars each. And while J.B. Stetson’s marketed the "Boss of the Plains" to

cowboys, it was an indispensable item in every man's wardrobe in the 19th

century and first half of the 20th century.

Stetson focused on high-value, high-quality hats that represented a real

investment for the working cowboy which doubled as a ‘statement of success’

for the city dweller.

President Ronald Reagan demonstrated the popularity of the cowboy hat as a

movie star, as a resident of the American west, and as a horseback rider.


1. Know When to Remove Your Hat

The first rule is knowing when to remove your cowboy hat. During the

National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, the passing of the flag, in church,

during prayer, and during a funeral procession -- all require the hat to go.

Also, remove your hat when introduced to a woman. You can hold the hat

in one hand while you shake her hand in greeting with the other. Last but

not least, remove your hat when entering a building or private home, when

you begin a new conversation or sit down to dine in a restaurant.

2. Pick the Right Hat for the Season

The straightforward guideline follows common sense. Originally the felt hats

were meant to keep the head warm on cold nights in the winter while the

straw hats would shade from the sun but allow air to pass through keeping

you cool in the summer. Make practical choices because it doesn't make

sense to sweat in winter wear when its 100 degrees outside.

3. Handle Your Hat the Right Way

Hold your hat the right way by holding it by the crown so that no one can

see the lining.

4. Tip Your Hat

Cowboys tip their hats to ladies when outdoors, remove them when being

introduced, and always remove them when entering a lady’s home.

Note: Forget about the movies. Men never tipped their hats to other men in

the Old West. It was akin to calling them a woman. A nod was as common

greeting when not shaking hands.

5. Never Mess with Another Cowboy's Hat

The most important rule of cowboy hat etiquette is to never mess with

another gentleman’s hat. Not only is it considered bad luck, but this is an

extremely personal (and often expensive) item.

If you follow my BLOGs, you already know I have a huge passion and

respect for the American West and all of its glorious stories. In moving from

Washington state to beautiful Oklahoma in 1985 (and with the start of my

first little herd of black angus cattle), it was an easy choice to adopt the

cowboy hat as part of my wardrobe.

Whether you don the cowboy hat or not, God bless you, God bless your

family, and God bless the American West and this great country.

Best regards,



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