Home > Hat Facts > Fedora vs Stetson Hats: Differences Explained

Fedora vs Stetson Hats: Differences Explained

By Taylor James


Updated on

Nothing completes a Western or vintage ensemble like a wide-brimmed hat.

Firstly, Stetson is a hat company, not a specific hat. So, when considering the differences we will compare the fedora style with the Stetson cowboy hat range (the quintessential Stetson). Stetson does now have a fedora range in their collection.

Fedoras are flat, wide-brimmed semi-formal felt hats sporting a pinched or creased crown, snap-brim, trim ribbon, and low-sitting brim above the brow line. On the other hand, Stetson’s cowboy hat range are timeless, felt hats boasting tall flat-sided crowns with wider upturned brims.

Before you prance into the local millinery (hat) shop and begin trying on stylish headwear, figure out whether a Stetson, fedora, or another style best matches your big event garb. To learn about the difference between a fedora and the Stetson hat, read on! 

Stetson is had company,

Fedora Hat: An Overview

The timeless and dapper fedora hat is still a fashion spectacle, popularized on the Hollywood red carpet by Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Kid Rock. 

However, this modern-day marvel traces back to Victorien Sardou’s 1882 play, aptly named Fédora. The play’s heroine — Princess Fédora — sported this soft, creased, and brimmed hat on stage, later transforming it into a women’s rights symbol in the following decades.

This practical headwear was an instant global hit by the 1920s after Prince Edward and other high-profile figures recognized the hat’s advanced element protection. At the time, the fedora symbolized wealth at upscale events, like tennis matches, polo tournaments, and country clubs.

The fedora again found a new audience during America’s Prohibition-era (the Roaring Twenties). This once classy hat suddenly entered “informal” territory and became fashionable amongst gangsters like Al Capone, sporting this felt hat with baggy, high-waisted zoot suits. 

Fedoras faded from the public eye for decades, later returning in the 21st century after being reclaimed by the “hipster” crowd donning denim jackets, plain tees, and casual suit vests.

What Is a Fedora?

Fedoras are soft hats, typically made of felt, animal fur (beaver, rabbit), cashmere, or wool. Often described as “wide-brimmed,” a fedora’s outer brim usually measures 2.5-4″ (6.35-10.16 cm) all around and provides reasonable eye protection from the sun when worn just above the brow line. 

The classic fedora has a distinct double-pinched or front-creased crown, a similarly-colored trim ribbon, and a snap-brim (the option to curl the brim up in the front and down at the back). Discover some intriguing facts about the fedora in this article.

Checkout the Stetson Fedora range on Amazon

How (& When) To Wear Fedoras

Fedoras are a stereotypically “casual” hat, often complementing hipster and dress-down attire. However, the fedora thrives best alongside formal wear at ritzier events. To pull off a fedora more stylishly than Indiana Jones’ flawless yet rugged attempt:

  • Leave the fedora for black-tie weddings, upscale balls, and country club events.
  • Only sport your felt fedora on cooler days and outside-only gatherings.
  • Pair this timeless hat with a sleek blazer, fitted shirt and suit vest, or formal overcoat.
  • If you must wear one casually, wear it alongside a tight-fitting shirt, chinos, and loafers.

Pros of Fedoras

Despite its declining reputation and formal-wear demise, fedoras are far from “outdated.” This timeless hat’s undeniable pros include:

  • Great at blocking sunlight and keeping the dome warm
  • Comfortable felt construction
  • Can top off a standard tux or suit
  • Curl the brim up or down at your leisure
  • Matches all head sizes and shapes

Cons of Fedoras

Fedoras are dapper hats fit for any cool-weather formal event, but they’re not without their flaws, too. Here are the most notable fedora cons:

  • Reclaimed (and overworn) by the hipster crowd
  • Too flashy or mysterious for most events

Stetson Hat: An Overview

The Stetson hat’s historical journey is long yet relatively unchanged to this day. In 1865, hat maker John B. Stetson crafted a Western-style paying homage to the classic rancher lifestyle, dubbed the “Boss of the Plains.” 

This flat-brimmed, ultra-wide, and flat felt hat quickly became popular amongst outdoor workers and cowboys alike, lightweight enough to handle long hours bailing hay yet also waterproof to protect the cowboy from a torrential downpour.

Within a year of launching the traditional Stetson hat, the hat company fulfilled millions of orders. Eventually, it became the quintessential “cowboy hat,” marketed toward working men like miners and ranch workers. 

However, its popularity spread far from the plains and into the nearby bustling cities, later becoming uniform staples at Canadian police precincts and the United States military bases.

The now-urbanized and famous Stetson became a mainstream and trendy hit as Stetson unleashed several models over the years (including ones with upturned brims and varying creases). Still unchanged nearly two centuries later, the Stetson is still the face of John Wayne, the Marlboro Man, and classic Western movies.

Check out the Stetson Open Road range on Amazon.

What Is a Stetson Hat?

Stetsons are the cliche cowboy hat, often constructed from felt, wool, or straw and boasting an unusually wide 2 ¾-5″ (6.99-12.7 cm) brim all around. 

The original Stetson hat — the Boss of the Plains — had a 4″ (10.16 cm) tall towering crown, a flat brim, and a customizable hatband to adjust the hat’s size. Today, Stetson’s transformation includes a double-dented front crown, slightly upturned brim, a decorative band or buckle, and mostly neutral felt colors. Read more about what makes Stetson hats unique in this article.

How (& When) To Wear Stetsons

The Stetson brand still reps its once-legendary cowboy hat model but has expanded its product line-up to address a wider audience — ranchers, line dancers, and amateur models. To wear this wide-brimmed cowboy hat as intended by John Stetson himself:

  • Wear darker-colored Stetsons for evening soirees and straw hats for work activities.
  • Tug the hat low over the eyes for ample sun protection while on the ranch.
  • Pair your Stetson with a button-down shirt, rugged jeans, and leather cowboy boots.

Pros of Stetsons

The timeless cowboy hat might not be fit for an upscale wedding or charity ball, but they’re undoubtedly fashionable accessories. Stetson’s pros include:

  • Provides excellent sun protection
  • Lightweight and waterproof enough to handle outdoor work
  • Completes the Western look perfectly
  • Holds its shape for a long time (durability)
  • Brand name stands the test of time

Final Thoughts

Stetson made the first recognizable cowboy hat and continues to make outstanding hats today. Stetson makes hats in many shapes, sizes, and styles. You probably can’t go too far wrong if choosing a Stetson hat, no matter what style you are going for.

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

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.