What is the Difference Between a Cowboy Hat and a Fedora?
Cowboy hats and fedoras are fashionable, statement-making accessories: Both complete an outfit, whether for a Western wedding or a casual day in town. The cowboy hat versus fedora debate has been hashed out many times, especially when it comes to what kind of hat Indiana Jones wears, but the bottom line is that they are not the same. While brim style and size are main differences between the two, there is more to each hat style than meets the eye. Explore this comparison to learn more about cowboy hats, fedoras, and their individual qualities.
What Is a Cowboy Hat?
Just as there are benefits to wearing a sturdy pair of cowboy boots, cowboy hats are for more than fashion. Sure, they look good, but cowboy hats offer protection from the elements and block sun, wind, and rain. A cowboy hat is a versatile Western style ideal for working in the barnyard, riding the ranch, or sitting in the stands to root for your favorite sports team. The shape and size of the crown, crease, and brim of a cowboy hat make it different from a fedora.
Cowboy Hat Crowns, Creases, and Brims
Three elements come together to create familiar cowboy hat styles: The crown of a cowboy hat is the part that covers the head; the crease is an indent or pinch in the crown; the brim is the wide strip of material that wraps around the crown at its base. Some of the most common shapes include:
- The traditional cattleman features three deep creases across the tall crown. The brim curves up slightly on both sides.
- Dual indentations on the sides of a pinch front crown create a V-shape in the front for a classic cowboy look. The brim curves up on both sides and down to a V in the front.
- The open crown hat is rounded on top and does not feature a crease. The brim is flat all the way around.
- The gambler hat features a wide flat brim that curves up slightly at the edges and a flat crown with a round indent.
- A high, downward-sloping crown with three deep pinches are the earmarks of a Gus cowboy hat. The wide brim is flat with a slight curve on either side.
A stetson is a style of cowboy hat—not a fedora—but not all cowboy hats are Stetsons. Founded by John B. Stetson in 1865, this well-known company produced the first official cowboy hat, designed in the open crown style, and they’ve been making them ever since. Though many companies today create and manufacture high-quality cowboy hats, there’s only one that can officially be called a Stetson.
What Is a Fedora?
Fedora hats usually call up images of the Rat Pack, gambling on the Las Vegas strip, and New York City in the 1920s. The earliest fedora was known for its teardrop-shaped crown, single-center crease, and medium brim width. Originally worn by low- to middle-class men for protection from the elements, these hats were more functional than fashionable. But in the 1960s, the fedora became a stylish accessory that enjoyed a resurgence in the 1980s and 2000s. Today, a fedora is still a cool wardrobe staple. Choose from dress, casual, classic, safari, and Western fedoras for occasions casual to formal.
Types of Fedoras
A typical fedora crown extends up between four and six inches, with a brim width between two and four inches. Choose a fedora made in a durable hat material that can stand up to everyday wear. Many types of fedoras include a hatband for a bit of contrast, made in leather, grosgrain, or silk, and adorned with feathers or a small bow.
The snap brim of a fedora is a major difference from a cowboy hat. There are no actual snaps or holes in this type of brim; the snap refers to the way it is formed. A snap brim on a fedora is generally worn up all around but turned down in the front and allows some hat customization: Wear it up for a classic look or snap it down all the way around for a hipster vibe.
Fedora hats come in three basic crown styles:
- A center dent crown is a classic fedora shape. A single, pinched crease extends from the front to the back of the crown on this cool hat. Some center dent fedoras have a slightly square crown shape.
- The teardrop fedora is narrow at the front and rounded at the back. The crown is smooth around the edges and features a low profile.
- Diamond crown fedoras come to a point at the front and feature three points at the back. The crown is slightly domed on top.
And although Indiana Jones’ hat does not feature a snap brim, his high, center dent crown style with a grosgrain ribbon is clearly a fedora.
Fedora Versus Pork Pie Hat
Thanks to the hipster revolution and the hit television show Breaking Bad, pork pie popularity has risen in recent years. Pork pie hats are very similar to fedoras, but with a few key differences:
- Brim width: The brim of a pork pie hat is never more than 2 ½ inches wide.
- Crown shape: A pork pie hat features only a telescope crease crown shape.
- The snap: A pork pie snap-brim points up around the entire circumference.
- Overall look: Pork pie hats are flat, squat, and slightly smaller than fedoras.
The differences and similarities between cowboy hats and fedoras are plentiful, but they both look great with a pair of cowboy boots. Always store cowboy hats and fedoras properly to keep them looking fresh and ready to go.
Now that you’re an expert on the great cowboy hat versus fedora debate, explore our cowboy hat fit guide to find your perfect size, no matter the style.