Compiled by Kari deCastro
It’s unlikely that when John B. Stetson invented the cowboy hat in the mid-1800s (largely out of necessity and by some accounts initially as a joke) that he envisioned it would become one of the most signature trademarks of the iconic American Cowboy. But since its conception, that’s exactly what it has become. Just like your favorite pair of jeans or most flashy piece of tack, your cowboy hat says something about you. It’s a way to express yourself! And, since many of us don’t wear our “caboy” hats on a regular basis, it’s one of the first things people notice when we’ve got it on.
From the crease to the crown and the brim to the embellishments, the options are infinite. But don’t get overwhelmed, at the end of the day, we all wear a lot of hats, and you might need more than one for your different occasions or personalities. Then, on the other hand, you might find just the right cowboy hat and never want to trade it in—after all, the western lifestyle is all about tradition.
Here, Kaci Riggs, Assistant Product Developer for Hatco, Inc., offers up some professional tips on finding the cowboy hat that might be best for you:
1. People wear hats for a lot of different reasons from fashion to function. It just depends on your job that day. Obviously, they shade our delicate skin from the sun and protect us from the elements. We all look for something that is flattering. We want the color to compliment our skin tone and the crease to compliment our facial features and reflect our personality. The trim (hat band, embellishments, etc.) directly reflects our character. Your hat says a lot about who you are. It’s a strong accessory.
2. You want your cowboy hat to fit your personality. For example, at the 2008 NFR Maegan Reichert had all zebra tack, so we threw together a zebra hat, something flashy to fit her style. Charlie 1 Horse hats can draw a lot of attention, so when I’m roping, I don’t like to wear them, but lots of girls love them because of that flashiness. You want something that fits you inside and out. It needs to reflect who you are.
3. Basic rule of thumb—blondes look sharp in black hats. Olive skin tones and brunettes look fantastic in a Silver Belly. You don’t want to look washed out. I, personally, wear a hat that we call Chamois in the Resistol line. In general, Chocolate is hot right now, but black and Silver Belly are always popular.
4. Functionality is the most important part of a cowboy hat. We can never be worried about it blowing off during ranch work or competition. When it’s time to pop the crown out, pull your hat down and just grit your teeth to make your run. Also, people are looking out for their personal health now more than ever, and we need to protect our skin. We also want to be comfortable and look good when we wear our hats.
5. The basic hat brim width is 4 inches. Some ladies can wear 4¼ up to 5 inches. And, a lady doesn’t want the crown any taller than about 4 inches in the front; it can rise up some in the back as long as it tapers with your face. Anything less than that, and you can’t pull it down on your head. Anything more than that, and it just looks too tall.
6. Of course, there are trends. We’ve seen trends change from tall crowns in the ’80s and ’90s to much lower crowns. Now, many of the youth competitors are wearing tall, open crowns again with flat brims and putting their own personal creases in the hats. Trends will come and go, but there will always be the timeless classics like the Resistol 20X Black Gold and the Stetson Open Road.