How to Choose a Quality Cowboy Hat
You may have a long-favorite cowboy hat that you’ve worn for years, or you may find that the latest hat you bought wore out faster than you expected. When it comes to Western hats, they sure do take a beating. Sun, wind, rain, snow—the elements put your hat through a lot while protecting your head. To ensure your cowboy hat lasts as long as possible, look for products crafted from the highest quality materials by expert hat makers. Follow the tips in our hat buying guide to determine the best options for you and your lifestyle.
What Makes a Cowboy Hat “High-Quality”
When looking for a “high-quality” cowboy hat, you need to consider a few specific things: the brand or hat maker, types of materials, and construction techniques used to craft hats.
Cowboy Hat Material
Choosing a hat crafted of superior materials means a longer-lasting hat that looks great for years to come, no matter what you put it through. Generally, people wear straw hats in summer and wool or fur felt for winter—but this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Leather cowboy hats are ultra-durable, water-resistant options that keep you warm when the temperatures fall. The best material for a cowboy hat depends on its intended use.
Fur felt hats are water-resistant and shed rain or snow to keep your head warm and dry, but not all felt hats are equal. The X-factor, a rating system that designates the felt quality, is a good guide when looking for the right hat material. Hats include an X-factor listing, such as 3X, 5X, all the way up to 10X. This rating discloses what percentage of the hat is genuine fur—hats labeled with 10X meaning the hat is 100 percent fur, generally considered the highest quality. Not every cowboy needs a 10X hat: Try on hats and determine which looks and feels the best to you.
If you need a lightweight hat for summer that keeps the sun off your face and neck while providing plenty of airflow for comfort, a straw hat is a good option. Straw hats may have looser or tighter weaves. While some of the decision comes down to preference, generally, the tighter the weave, the better quality the hat. Straw hats also carry an X rating: Higher numbers denote a tighter weave and better quality materials.
Hat Construction Techniques
Handcrafted hats are superior to those made by machines: Hat construction techniques have been honed for decades by some of the top names in Western wear, and brands that take shortcuts in hat construction sacrifice quality. The highest quality hats are handmade by skilled hatmakers who have spent years learning their craft. For wool and fur felt hats, the material is stretched and formed into a hat blank, which is then shrunk, formed, and blocked using moisture, heat, and hatmaking tools. Hand-woven straw hats are crafted using steam and moisture to soften the fibers as the hat is constructed, then crown shape and creases are formed by hand. The process of making hats by hand ensures the best results.
Get the Right Cowboy Hat Fit and Shape
Head shape and hat size are important when choosing your cowboy hat. No matter the hat quality, if it doesn’t fit properly, you won’t be as comfortable. The best cowboy hat fit depends on your head size, head shape, and intended use.
Measure to find your cowboy hat size, then check the hatmaker’s size chart to determine which will fit best. A better-fitting cowboy hat is more comfortable, provides the best protection against the elements, and will hold its shape better. A hat that’s too big will slide and shift while you’re wearing it, which can make it lose its shape. If it’s too small, the hatband and brim may stretch as you try to adjust it on your head. While it’s possible to restore warped hats, choosing the right fit and storing your hat properly can prevent damage and help your hat last even longer.
Western hat designs are statement-makers, and each style says something about the cowboy who chose it. While the ideal Western hat shape is mostly based on preference, consider the benefits offered by different brim and crown styles. Hats with lower crowns generally provide a better fit for active lifestyles, taller crowns allow extra airflow for a cooling effect, and crowns with creases may be easier to take off and put back on one-handed. Western brim styles vary, but their main purpose is to keep the sun, snow, or rain off your face and neck. Choose a brim style that’s large enough to do the job, without being so big that it gets in the way.
No matter the Western hat you choose, proper care and cleaning can help it last even longer. Whether for fashion, work—or a bit of both—a high-quality cowboy hat is a country wardrobe must-have. Explore our blog for more tips on hat styles, maintenance, and Western wear inspiration.