Best Cowboy Hats

Updated April 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

24 Models Considered
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best cowboy hats

Last Updated April 2019

You don’t have to be a cowboy – or cowgirl – to wear a cowboy hat. You don’t even have to know how to ride a horse. All that’s required to sport this iconic headwear is a love of the style, a flair for fashion, and a sense of pride in the spirit of the American West.

If you’re looking to buy your first cowboy hat, you might be surprised by the many styles available, as well as the various materials used to make them.

We’ve written this helpful guide to help you choose the perfect cowboy hat for your particular style.

The classic style of the cowboy hat suits everyone, looks good with a wide range of fashions, and flatters most face shapes.

What is a cowboy hat?

While there are many styles that fall under the general term “cowboy” hat, as a general rule, all of them have a wide brim to protect the wearer from the sun and a high crown that usually has one or more creases or indentations. Most cowboy hats have a decorative band around the base of the crown, and some have strings or straps to secure the hat under the wearer’s chin.

You’ll sometimes hear these hats referred to as “ten-gallon” hats. While the expression has been used for nearly a century, its etymology is uncertain. Even the largest cowboy hat doesn’t hold anything close to ten gallons. Some people refer to cowboy hats as Stetsons – a nod to John B. Stetson, who originated the iconic headwear in the mid-1800s and founded the company that still bears his name.

If you like fashion with a bit of fun, go ahead and try a cowboy hat in a bright color or pastel hue.

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BestReviews

Cowboy hat features to consider

Styles

The very first cowboy hat was called the “Boss of the Plains,” but in the 150 years since its introduction, a lot of other styles have joined the cowboy hat bandwagon. Some of the most popular styles include the following:

  • Cattleman: This is the most common style of cowboy hat. The crown has three slight indentations or creases, and the brim has a slight curl.

  • Brick: This modified cattleman has a single dimple in the slightly square crown.

  • Gus: This hat has three deep dimples and a higher crown than most of the other styles.

  • Tom Mix: Also called a ten-gallon hat, this larger version of the Gus is named for Western film star Tom Mix.

  • Open crown: This style has a roomy crown without any creases or dimples. It’s one of the oldest styles of cowboy hat.

  • Gambler: A popular style in Western movies, the gambler has a crown without dimples or creases and a large brim.

  • Pinched front: The crown of this style has two deep creases that meet in a “V” at the front.

  • Western derby: These hats have rounded crowns and rolled brims.
     

Materials

Once you’ve decided on the style that suits you best, it’s time to choose the material.

  • Fur felt: Beaver or rabbit fur is most commonly used. It’s the crème de la crème of the cowboy hat world. A quality fur felt hat that is properly cared for should look good for decades. You can also shape or bend the brim to suit your personal style.

  • Many fur felt cowboy hats have an X marking inside the crown that indicates the percentage of fur in the felt. While the system was once standardized, today’s hat manufacturers tend to use their own codes. Generally, the higher the X number, the more fur in the felt and the better the quality of the hat.

  • Straw: These cowboy hats also sometimes use the X system to indicate the tightness of the weave and the quality of the straw used to make the hat. Straw hats don’t last nearly as long as the other materials – you can expect to get just a few years’ use out of a straw hat if you wear it regularly. However, it is lighter and cooler than felt or wool, so it’s a good choice for summer.

  • Wool: These cowboy hats can’t be shaped the way felt hats can, but wool hats can generally be folded or crushed without coming out the worse for wear. You won’t get as many years of use from a wool hat as from a felt hat, but wool hats are usually much less expensive than felt.

  • Leather or suede: These cowboy hats are not nearly as common as hats made of the other materials, but they are an option. Both tend to be heavy and hot, but they’re quite durable. You’ll also find a wide range of colors and patterns in leather and suede hats.
     

Fit

Hats come in a range of sizes, but manufacturers do not have a standardized sizing system. The following guidelines will give you a good idea of your hat size.

Position a cloth tape measure or piece of string at the center of your forehead, about one-eighth of an inch above your ears, and measure around your head. Keep the tension of the tape measure neutral: don’t squeeze too tightly or let the tape slip downward. Your head size translates to your hat size.

  • Small: 21 to 22 inches

  • Medium: 22 to 23 inches

  • Large: 23 to 23.5 inches

  • Extra-large: 23.5 to 24 inches
EXPERT TIP

There are many different styles of cowboy hat, so try on several to find the one that suits you best.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Handle your hat by the brim, not the crown. This helps keep the hat’s shape.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

The right cowboy hat for you is the one that makes you smile when you wear it. Having said that, there are a few guidelines for choosing that perfect hat.

  • Choose a hat based on your face shape. Is your face long and narrow? A hat with a low crown and slightly downward-curled brim will provide balance. Chin a little more prominent than you’d like? Minimize it with a hat with a wide brim. If you have a high forehead, choose a hat with a high crown.

  • Your hat should fit snugly without being uncomfortably tight. You can angle your hat slightly back if you’d like, but the classic look is straight, with the brim of the hat just a finger’s width or two above your eyebrows. If your hat covers your eyebrows, it’s too big. If you struggle to put it on, it’s too tight. If your hat is loose, hat stores sell foam strips specifically made to fit inside the hat’s crown.

  • Wear your hat the right way around. Wondering which is the front of the hat? Most good-quality cowboy hats have a small bow inside the crown. This bow goes at the back of your head.

  • Wear a hat that’s comfortable. Tradition says straw cowboy hats are for summers only and wool or felt hats are appropriate for cooler months, but feel free to wear whichever is most comfortable. Remember that while wool or felt hats are somewhat water resistant, rain will damage a straw hat.

  • Dry out your hat. If your straw or wool hat gets wet, let it air-dry on a hat rack. If you get caught in the rain while wearing a felt hat, set it on its crown and let it dry naturally. Don’t put a wet hat near any heat source or you risk shrinking or warping it.

  • Prevent odors. Occasionally flip up the sweatband inside the hat’s crown, particularly after wearing the hat on a hot day. This airs out the sweatband and prevents the buildup of odor.

Cowboy hat prices

As with most fashion items, the price range for cowboy hats is wide. You can purchase a cheap straw or “faux felt” hat for less than $10. On the other extreme, there are specialty, custom-made, and designer cowboy hats that sell for thousands of dollars.

Below are prices the typical buyer can expect to spend. If your budget is limited, you can find hats of reasonable quality for about half this much.

  • High-end straw hat: You can expect to pay between $30 and $60.

  • Good wool hat: You can expect to pay between $50 and $100.

  • High-quality fur felt hat: You can expect to pay between $100 and $300.
You’ll find cowboy hats in a wide range of colors, but by far the most popular – and traditional – are black, brown, tan, and white.

FAQ

Q. Are women’s cowboy hats different from men’s hats?

A. Both men and women can wear any of the common hat styles. As a general rule, cowboy hats designed for women run slightly smaller and come in a wider range of colors. Some women’s hats have an elaborately decorated hatband as well.

Q. How should I care for my cowboy hat?

A. If you want your cowboy hat to look its best for a long time, you need to take proper care of it. Store your hat in a hatbox if you aren’t going to wear it for a while. When you take it off in a restaurant or other indoor setting, put the hat down on its crown, not on its brim. This helps prevent warping of the brim. And don’t store your hat near high heat, which can shrink or deform the hat’s sweatband or felt. If your hat gets dirty, you can clean it with a hat brush or sponge. Gently wipe away any sweat marks, dirt, or oil.

Q. What are some cowboy hat etiquette guidelines?

A. While etiquette rules vary considerably from region to region and from person to person, as a general rule, it’s considered impolite to touch or try on another person’s cowboy hat without permission. Take your hat off when entering a building or sitting down for a meal. If eating outdoors, go ahead and leave your hat on. Some people consider it acceptable to keep their hat on in a public building, but remove it in a restaurant, church, or home.

The team that worked on this review
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