6 Different Types of Cowboy Hats

Explore the many types of cowboy hats available for men, women, and children. You can find these hats in six essential designs, crafted of diverse fabrics, and colors to suit any outfit.

A close look with a variety of cowboy hats hanging on the wooden wall.

Those new to cowboy hats might not realize the immense diversity within these pate toppers. The six main styles of hat, various brim styles exist, too. Hat material varies as well.

While some version of the cowboy hat has existed since men began working the prairies and rangelands, the first popular American style hat hit stores in 1865. Known as the “Boss of the Plains,” its designer John B. Stetson, became one of the standout designers of hats, and his company still exists today.

His Boss design used soft felt for the high crowed hat with no creases. While you rarely see a Boss of the Plains worn today, six main styles prevail.

You can find classic hats in vintage shops, but these six styles of cowboy hats continue in manufacture today. You can find them made by the big names in cowboy hats – Stetson, Resistol, Atwood, and Charlie 1 Horse.

We designed this guide to help you choose the right style hat for you since many people say things like, “I want a Stetson cowboy hat.” That statement only tells the store clerk what hat manufacturer the shopper favors, not what style.

The Cattleman

WESTERN EXPRESS Men's Classic Cattleman Off White Straw Cowboy Hat, Adult Elastic Fit Small/Medium
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The typical, traditional cowboy look. This hat combines a low crown with a curved brim and three creases on the top of the crown.

The Dakota

Henschel Men's Dakota Leather Australian Cowboy Hat,XXX-Large,Brown
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Rodeo bull riders favor The Dakota which combines a slight brim curve and a rectangular, broad indentation at the crown’s top.

The Gambler

Dorfman Pacific Co. Men's Rush Gambler, Natural, Small
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Featured prominently in classic Western films, this style pairs a flat, large brim with a flat, low crown. Typically worn in either white or black, its design provides sun protection plus keeps the head cooler.

The Gus

Stetson Gus Straw Cowboy hat (6 3/4)
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This classic high crowned style marked with three deep indentations and a front slope provides the classic cowboy look. The indentations in The Gus supposedly reside exactly where Old West cowboys grasped their hats off to remove them when entering a building or tipping their hat to a lady.

The Nevada

Atwood Nevada 4 1/2" (6 3/4)
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People sometimes confuse this with The Gambler style hat. It provides a sophisticated styling combining a flat crown and brim with a woven hat band.

The Pinch Front

Enimay Western Cowboy & Cowgirl Hat Pinch Front Wide Brim Style (Small | Medium, Classic Sand)
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Many women choose The Pinch Front hat because its sloped, pinched front makes the face seem thinner. Each side of the front of the crown features a deep indent to create the pinch.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

While the humble cowboy hat might seem a simple proposition, it has come so far since its origination in the US in 1865, that it requires a detailed FAQ. From its designs to its designers, these hats feature a diversity of shapes and sizes to suit any face shape or outfit.

Why did designers add the indentations?

The indentations came first. The original design had no indentations, but cowboys in the Old West combined the traits of tough and gentlemanly. The Stetson company’s initial design had a round top, but good manners require a man to remove his hat upon entering a building or passing a woman on the street.

The appropriately attired cowboy would regularly remove his hat by grasping its round crown to remove it completely or to tip his hat to a lady. The constant use of good manners would wear indentations into both sides of the round crown. Hat designers simply saw the natural morph of the crown and altered their designs to better suit the gentlemen cowboys’ needs.

Who wears cowboy hats?

In the mid-1800s, only those working as cowboys, ranch workers, or cattle hands wore these hats to protect themselves from the ravages of the sun in the American West. While they still wear these hats for sun protection, they also became a fashion accessory in Western wear and everyday fashion.

Whether you live in Western Canada or New York City, a cowgirl hat or men’s cowboy hat provides the perfect accessory for any country look or western look. Originally worn only by men, today’s cowboy hats come in sizes and styles for women and children. Hats may include decorations such as embellishments, feathers, natural gems, or rhinestones.

Rather than the basic black or white, these cowboy hats come in a rainbow array of colors as well as prints. You can wear a pink cowboy hat or a zebra-striped one.

Who made the first embellished cowboy hat?

The embellishments to cowboy hats did not begin with a designer. The earliest cowboys added a feather or band or pin or other items to their hat to differentiate from the other hats in the hand house or their home. Families were typically large, and each man of chore or work age, about 12 to 14 years old, wore a hat. Adding something to the basic hat made it easy to tell one hat from the other.

How do outdoor or work cowboy hats differ from fashion hats?

Certainly, you can find hats for work and fashion in many colors, but the hats intended for outdoor workwear include rugged features such as a crushable design and waterproofing. Fashion hats do not typically include these features. They are designed for “just for looks” wear.

What materials do these cowboy hats use?

You can still find the traditional feltcowboy hat style, but cowboy hats today also come made from fur, beaver, leather, straw, wax cloth, and wool. If you would like to own a hat of multiple materials, you can contact a bespoke design for a custom cowboy hat.

What is a Panama hat?

Although not a cowboy hat per se, The Panama hat of Ecuador uses lightweight Panama straw to produce a breathable pate topper ideal for the beach or working outdoors. While not a western hat per se, this style of the hat features a dented crown and round brim.

What is a Córdobes Hat?

Native to Andalusia and developed in Córdoba, Spain, The Córdobes hat, also called the Cordovan hat, provides a wide brim for sun protection. In Spanish, sombrero cordobés means “wide-brimmed hat.” Its design favors a traditional cowboy hat but features a circular crown and brim of stiff material. The traditional Córdobes comes in black, but today you can find this hat in an array of hues.

What is a Sombrero?

The American cowboy hat drew its inspiration from a hat known as The Vaqueros designed in Mexico. Over time, Mexican cowboys began referring to The Vaqueros by the name we know it today – The Sombrero. Sombrero design combines a high crown with a very wide brim to provide ample protection from the sun while herding cattle.

What are the parts of a cowboy hat?

A cowboy hat consists of three essential parts – the crown, crease, and brim.

The Crown: forms the top of the hat which your head fits into on the interior.

The Crease: refers to the crown’s shape, specifically any indent or pinch added to its shape.

The Brim: refers to the material protruding from the crown’s base. The wider the brim, the greater the protection from the sun.

How should you store your cowboy hat?

Store your cowboy hat with the brim up. This protects the brim of the hat from warping, which occurs when the hat rests on its brim on any flat surface for an extended period. You could also hang your hat on a hat tree or from the knob of a coat tree.

To pick up your cowboy hat grasp its brim. If you pick it up at the crown, you will end up further indenting its crease, much like the Old West cowboys first caused dents in their round crowned hats.

How do you determine your hat size?

Just like buying jeans that fit well, you must take measurements to obtain a well-fitting hat. By doing this, you ensure you order a hat that will fit snugly, but not tightly. It also won’t drop too low on your forehead and hide your eyes.

Using a tape measure, measure the circumference of your head at the center of your forehead. Depending on what the hat material is, it will expand with heat. Worn for a long time, your hat will loosen. This means you will need to add a headband on the interior to get it to fit snugly again.

A straw cowboy hat remains snug in fit better than a felt cowboy hat. Felt hats stay on better though and are less apt to fly off in windy conditions.

Which cowboy hat should you choose for your face shape?

Rough and tumble cowboys might not consider this important, but some do, and most cowgirls make this important consideration regardless of the hat type they wear. You can complement your face shape and accentuate its best features by choosing the right style cowboy hat for your face shape. If you have a/an:

Oblong face shape, you need a hat that does not accentuate your face’s length. This requires a medium crown height hat design and wide, curved brim. You should wear the hat low on your forehead.

Round face shape, you need a hat that accentuates your face’s angles – your cheekbones. A hat with sharp angles, a slanted brim, and a high crown provides the asymmetry that can help your cheekbones pop. You should wear your hat tilted backward or forward.

Diamond face shape, you need a hat that elongates your features to make your angular face with its narrow jaw and short forehead more balanced. A cowboy hat with a medium to wide brim will complement your cheekbones. A shallow crowned hat lets you tip it back further on your head to further elongate and balance your features.

Square face shape, you need a hat that softens the hard angles and lines of your facial features, including your square jawline. Choose a floppy hat to soften prominent cheekbones and a wide forehead. To counter a prominent jaw, choose a rounded cowboy hat for its curved brim.

What does it mean to shape your cowboy hat?

If you get bored with the shape of your cowboy hat, you can re-shape it. This refers to altering the brim of the hat. If you have no experience doing this and have no hat on which to practice first, you should take your hat to a hat shop.

The professionals at the store will use a professional steamer to soften the hat material temporarily. They will then shape it to your desired design. They allow it to dry fully by natural means, avoiding all heat sources. This process re-shapes the existing hat. Of course, you could also purchase a second cowboy hat.


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