Tradition & Respect: A Guide to Cowboy Hat Etiquette

Posted by Pinto Ranch on Jun 14th 2021

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Tradition & Respect: A Guide to Cowboy Hat Etiquette

The first cowboy hat in history can be dated back to the Mongolian horsemen as far back as the 13th century. But it was John B. Stetson who, in 1865, invented the traditional cowboy hat that you see worn in North America today. And with it, the guidelines of cowboy hat etiquette began to form.

The cowboy hat is a staple item in Western style, and although it's a great-looking hat that implies hard work and grit, there is much more to the cowboy hat than simply wearing it. There are specific rules to wearing a cowboy hat. If you're wondering how to wear a cowboy hat correctly, follow this guide from Pinto Ranch. We'll walk you through some of the most important do's and don'ts that'll have you tipping your hat the proper way.


Tips for Proper Cowboy Hat Etiquette

A cowboy hat is a personal item — an important one. You need to follow cowboy etiquette and standards if you wear one.

When Eating in a Restaurant

The following are some of the cowboy hat rules for dining in a restaurant:

  • When you go inside a restaurant, or any building, your cowboy hat comes off.
  • You can put your cowboy hat back on your head once inside a building if it is an informal occasion, but if it is formal, it stays off.
  • If you are eating a casual meal at a counter, you can wear your hat, but if you are sitting at a table in the restaurant, take it off.

When you are on the range, there is no need to take your hat off, even when you are eating.

Showing a Sign of Respect

There are times that cowboy hat etiquette demands you remove your hat as a sign of respect, and these include:

  • During the singing of the National Anthem, Passing of the Flag or Pledge of Allegiance.
  • During prayer or when you are in a church.
  • When you are meeting someone for the first time, especially an elder.
  • While attending an indoor wedding.
  • When attending an indoor funeral, or when the casket passes during a funeral procession.

During the funeral procession, hold your hat in your left hand and put your right hand over your heart. Or, you can take your hat in your right hand and place it over your heart.

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How to Wear a Cowboy Hat for The Right Season

Cowboy hats today are made from fur-based felt or straw, or less commonly, from leather. Felt hats used to be worn in the winter to help protect the cowboy from cold and dampness. Straw cowboy hats were made for the summertime to protect from sun and heat.

The needless fashion rule is to wear straw from May to Labor Day and felt for the time between (much like the "never wear white after Labor Day" rule). The better practice is to decide whether you should wear a felt or straw cowboy hat based on the weather. The straw hat is better for warmer weather, while the felt hat is best for cooler days to protect you from the elements.


Handling Your Cowboy Hat

Some people will remove it by the brim, but cowboy hat etiquette, tradition and best practice say to remove it by the crown. If you need to adjust your hat or take it off, place it down on the crown or use a hat rack.

When you remove your hat or adjust it, whatever the reason, do not show the inside to anyone. The band and the inside of the cowboy hat are not for anyone to see but you.

Wear a Cowboy Hat That Fits Properly

A cowboy hat demands respect for the person wearing it. If you are wearing a cowboy hat that is too big for you, it will make you look silly, and it will get knocked off easily. If the cowboy hat is too small, it will be uncomfortable to wear and make you look squished.

You wear a cowboy hat when you are working, riding horses, plowing fields, cleaning barns and doing other laborious tasks, so you need it to fit you well. You can purchase a hat that is already shaped or unshaped.

When you want a customized look, un-creased hats with open brims are the way to go. If you have no specified crease style, hat shapers recommend beginning just outside your eyes to prevent the "taco" look. Decide on the hat crease you want before purchasing and wearing a cowboy hat.

Never Mess With a Cowboy's Hat

You might think stealing a baseball cap off someone's head is a hilarious prank, but one of the most significant cowboy hat rules is don't touch or steal a cowboy's hat. Ever. A cowboy hat is not only an expensive item, but a personal one as well. The number one piece of advice anyone can give you is to leave a cowboy or cowgirl's hat alone.

Get the Best — Wear a Cowboy Hat From Pinto Ranch

Now that you know how to wear a cowboy hat correctly, you're ready to head out on the town. Here at Pinto Ranch, we're dedicated to following cowboy hat etiquette — and to getting you the cowboy hats, boots and other Western wear you need. Browse our selection today!

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