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Cowboy Hats – Essential Facts

By Taylor James


Updated on

Throughout modern history, fashion trends have come and gone. One trend that has yet to leave the public eye is the cowboy hat, which has somehow survived decade after decade.

The modern-day cowboy hat dates back to 1865 when hatmaker John B. Stetson built its prototype. Since then, the cowboy hat has become a fashion icon, sported by Western stars such as John Wayne.

Follow along as we discuss the hat’s history and seven intriguing facts about this accessory.

Cowboy hat

The History of Cowboy Hats

When John B. Stetson first headed west, nobody predicted the legacy that he would leave behind. Today, Stetson is best remembered for pioneering the original cowboy hat through his John B. Stetson Company in 1865. Little did Stetson know that his design would quickly become the original hat of America’s Wild West.

Stetson (and his hats) would soon reach worldwide acclaim as the globe’s largest hat producer. His company’s line-up also included quality footwear, accessories, and other clothing items.

John Wayne Often Wore Cowboy Hats in Films

In his final film, The Shootist, John Wayne sported a custom cowboy hat. This Wayne-style hat featured a pinched front, a six-inch (15.24-cm) crown, and a triangular crease, a model still sold to this day.

Read more about John Wayne’s hats here.

The Shape of the Hat Describes Who You Are

In the case of cowboy hats, your hat’s style and shape represent who you are. For example, a relatively tall hat with a narrow crown was popular amongst cattlemen, both a fashion statement and functional headwear. This hat’s practicality also included tugging it down to fit tighter, protecting against the wind, rain, and sand.

Stetson Marshall Wool Cowboy Hat (With Cattlemen Crown)– Available on Amazon

Many Cowboys Preferred the Bowler Hat

Due to its sleek, aerodynamic construction, the bowler hat was much more practical than the cowboy hat for horseback travelers.

The bowler was far more skilled at deflecting wind, dirt, and sand than the traditional cowboy hat. So while the cowboy hat was specifically designed for workers out west, many outdoors sported bowlers instead.

There Are Two Major Cowboy Hat Specialty Companies 

Although the cowboy-style hat has been around for some time now, nearly two centuries to be exact, there are still two highly reputable, quality brands: Resistol and the John B. Stetson Company.

The Resistol name refers to the hat’s ability to ‘resist all weather conditions. The company is based out of Texas, a state where the cowboy hat remains a staple today.

Cowboy Hats Are Described by the X-Factor

The X-factor rating system is the most common way to define a cowboy hat, describing the percentage of pure fur used to craft the hat’s felt. Similarly, the quality of the felt will determine how expensive or inexpensive the cowboy hat will be. Hats are rated from 1X to 10X.

The finest hats are typically made from 100% beaver fur. The rating system is not standardized, however, so is just an indication of quality.

Some Cowboy Hats Are Very Expensive ($5,000+)

The most expensive cowboy hat on the market is the Diamante, initially popularized by the John B. Stetson Company. Today, Stetson still produces this incredibly high-quality cowboy hat, now sporting a massive $5,000 price tag. The hat includes a gold and diamond studded hat band.

Read more about why Stetson hats are expensive in this article.

Cowboy Hats Are Mostly Weather-Proof

Except for the straw hat, the cowboy hat is designed to handle long hours in direct sunlight or mild rain. As a general rule, any cowboy hat crafted from animal fur is highly resistant to weather.

The Resistol brand, in particular, has been known to craft especially durable hats capable of surviving both rain and snow. However, thunderstorms or heavy rains could break down the felt of a cowboy hat over time.

When cleaning a felt hat it should not be submerged in water, but rather treated with a damp soft-bristled brush.

Final thoughts

Cowboy hats are one of the few accessories that have withstood the test of time. That’s in part due to movie stars like John Wayne and the hat’s practicality, which makes it excellent headwear on the farm in rain, snow, or sun!

Considering its deep roots in American history, the cowboy hat seems to be on track to remain popular for the foreseeable future. Though fashion trends will come and go, American culture will be hard-pressed to let go of the cowboy hat.

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.