“Many cowboys are readily identified by the hat they wear.”
The variation is as different as the cowboys who are wearing them.
Often style, shape, and cleanliness of his hat are indicative of the cowboy’s attitude toward dress, attitudes and perhaps personality.
When a hat is clean, neatly shaped, appearing right-off-the-shelf, that often describes the cowboy wearing it too.
Opposite are those cowboys with greasy, sweat-stained hats with brims bent every-which-way, scroungy looking.
Interestingly, it doesn’t matter the season, straw hat or felt, cowboys generally follow their personal hat style and care preferences.
Philosophies vary on time when a cowboy should change from wearing a felt hat to a straw hat.
Consensus is that felt hats should be worn after Labor Day until the first of May when changed to straw hats. A number of old-time cowboys wear their felt hats year around.
Obviously, certain cowboys are very concerned about how they care for their hat, and others never give it a second thought.
Gerald Adame, hat expert so-to-speak for a major hat manufacturer, has given some “Dos and Don’ts of Cowboy Hat Care.”
Whether a cowboy is moving cattle to pasture, headed to the show pen, or a night on the town, hat care is important, Adame declared.
Likely more cowboys are careless about hat care than are those with conscientious concerns about hat appearance and longevity.
“Don’t leave the hat in a hot horse trailer or pickup,” Adame declared. “Heat can change the shape and condition of your hat.”
Majority of cowboys are congenial enough these days to remove their hats when coming into a room. Likewise, cowboys, at least the older generation, always tip their hats to the American flag or a woman whenever approached.
Yet, they’ll often just plop their hat on the table or chair without second thought.
There are enough superstitious cowboys that seldom does a cowboy throw his hat on the bed. Most everybody knows that will bring bad luck, and no cowboy wants any of that.
Hats should be hung on a post or hat rack to be supported from the inside.
“If you must lay a hat down, flip it over on the crown. Never place the hat on the brim because it loses shape that way,” Adame said.
If the hat not being worn is stored or taken someplace, it can be put in its original box. “There are a number of different kinds of cases available which work well when taking a hat along,” Adame said.
A hat’s brim and crown determine how it looks, fits, and lasts. “Put your hat on and take it off with the crown of the hat and avoid handling the brim,” Adame insisted.
Sometime or another a hat is going to get wet. “Let nature do the drying,” Adame advised. “Do not use a hair dryer, stove, or any other heat source to dry it. Lay it on a rack with the sweatband down and let it air dry.”
Dirt and stains should not be wiped off a hat when it is wet. “Let it dry and remove the dirt with a sponge or brush,” Adame recommended.
Not many cowboys have considered brushing their hats, but it is a good idea on expensive felt hats. “When dirt, dust or lint gets on a hat, gently brush along the outside counterclockwise,” Adame suggested.
Shaping or reshaping a hat is truly a skill-to-be-mastered although there is more than one way to do it.
“Most cowboys shape their own hats, but it is easier to have a professional do the task,” Adame said.
Without moisture, a hat can be hand shaped and placed on a stand for multiple days. “It should retain that shape for an extended time after, but reshaping may be required,” Adame pointed out.
Hats will stay in preferred shape longer when using moisture from a steamer or even a tea kettle. “Again, it’s desirable to find a hat store with a commercial steamer to shape the hat,” Adame reiterated.
As the steam hits the felt, the fibers will start to loosen, becoming more pliable for reshaping the hat.
“Pull, bend, pinch or lightly stretch the hat to the shape desired,” Adame said. “After cooling put the hat on to fit the head shape. Keep it in place for a few minutes, so the crown can conform properly.
“If you’re going to wear a cowboy hat, you’re going to have to go all the way,” Adame insisted.