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5 Reasons Cowboys Wear Hats

By Taylor James


Updated on

Cowboy hats are a well-known symbol of the American West. Thanks to their functionality and style, these tall, wide-brimmed hats continue to be a staple in American fashion for city slickers and farmhands alike. But why do cowboys wear hats?

Cowboys wear hats because they protect against the wind and rain and shade their eyes and face from the sun. Some cowboys use their hats as tools to fan themselves, signal other riders, or carry water from a stream. In addition, cowboys wear hats as a fashion statement.

While the wild, wild west days have long since passed, cowboy hats continue to carry on the legacy. Read on to learn five reasons why cowboys wear hats.

Protection From Wind and Rain

True cowboys spend most of their time outdoors herding cattle, tending to the animals, or riding horses, so their hats need to protect them from the weather, including rain and wind. Although their hat shouldn’t be in the rain all the time, they will shed water if caught in a rainstorm. 

The wide brim keeps the rain off of the face and out of the eyes, and if the hat is tilted back, it prevents rain from dripping down the neck and into the shirt.

When riding at high speeds or working outdoors on a windy day, a well-fitted cowboy hat will stay put. A cowboy can angle his head downwards to meet the wind head-on to protect his eyes and face from any blowing dust.

Shade From the Sun

A cowboy hat’s wide brim provides sun protection as it shades the eyes, ears, and face, while the telescope crease on the crown of a cowboy hat prevents heat from accumulating inside, keeping a cowboy cool. In addition, a cowboy can use the hat itself to fan himself off on a sweltering day.

Some cowboys dip their hats in rivers, streams, or horse troughs on blistering hot days and then stick them back on their heads for extra cooling. The palm-leaf hat is shaped by dunking it in water and will hold up to several soakings. However, this should not be done with felt hats, as they could grow mildew. 


To Communicate With Others

Cowboys use their hats to nonverbally direct attention and greet others. A cowboy will raise his hat and wave it in the air to signal to other ranch hands or riders, or he may tip his hat to say hello or goodbye. In addition, many cowboys use their hats to swat a horse or steer, to herd them, or shoo away flies.

To Pull Water From Rivers or Streams

Interestingly, cowboy hats have grown to become more than just a functional accessory, as they are sometimes used as tools. Some hats are water repellant, preventing the water from penetrating the fibers of the hat. While on a horse riding trip or out in the field with his cattle, a cowboy can use his hat to draw water for himself or thirsty animals.

Fashion Statement

While many cowboys might say that they wear their hats strictly for functionality, it’s no secret that cowboy hats are fashionable. For over a century, cowboys have decorated their cowboy hats with ribbons, snake rattlers, and feathers, among other things. These adornments, along with the shape and style of the hat, show off a cowboy’s personality. Check out this popular Stetson Bozeman hat on Amazon.


Discover more intriguing facts about cowboy hats here. Farmhands working in the hot sun all day benefited from the invention of the cowboy hat, as it protected their head from rain and shielded their face and eyes from sunburn and wind. As time passed, cowboys developed other uses for their hats, including nonverbal communication and using it as a vessel to pull water from streams. Today, cowboys wear hats for both functionality and style.

About Taylor James

As Philip Treacy once said, “How a hat makes you feel is what a hat is all about.” And on that note, I hope you enjoy your hats and find the site useful. Learn more about Hat Realm's Editorial Process.