Cowboy riding a horse while wearing a black Stetson

The Guide to Cowboy Hat Etiquette

Even though the cowboy hat is one of the most adored pieces of western clothing, purchasing and donning one involves more than just wearing it on your head.

The first unbreakable and crucial rule is: Never meddle with a cowboy's hat. You don't mess with a cowboy hat because it is a personal and extremely valuable object. You just don't do it, because in some regions touching a man's hat without his consent might result in you ending up in quite the altercation.

Several basic, established rules of etiquette:

  • The hat should be removed any time you enter an establishment.
  • For a casual gathering, you may re-don it, but for a formal one, you should leave it off.
  • Unless there is a place where the hat can be laid down safely, the hat should be removed before seated at a table for a meal.
  • However, the hat is permissible to wear when dining at a counter.
  • While you eat out on the range, keep your hat on. A different wrangler might walk on your hat or drop food onto the rim if you take it off.

It makes sense that straw hats were originally designed for summer wear (covering from heat and sun) and felt hats for winter usage (protecting from moisture and cold). It is purportedly an unwritten fashion guideline that straw is worn in between Labor Day and Memorial Day and felt in between. In actuality, depending on the weather at the time of wearing, both can be observed at any time of the year. Perhaps a straw hat would be preferable to a black hat in extremely hot weather. A straw would be too chilly on the head on a frigid night; felt might be a more pleasant alternative. However, I probably wouldn't wear a straw to a formal occasion no matter what. Use common sense as your compass.

Currently, there appear to be two camps of thinking regarding hat management. According to one school, hold the brim close to the crown in the front and back when putting on or taking off your hat. Another school advises only ever holding the crown loosely and never by the brim. It basically comes down to this: Any handling that results in the brim or crown flexing or bending will progressively damage the body of your hat. The sooner the hat loses its natural capacity to hold its shape, the more severe the flex or bend. Personally, I always carefully handle my hats by the crown. Since this is a structure that is more prone to disruption, I hardly ever handle them by the brim other than to adjust them on my head.

Some people utilize Travel Hat Boxes with Handles to transport their hats. These are sturdy containers that shield the hat from harm from the physical world and the elements, especially if it is a more expensive hat. I just carefully transport my relatively inexpensive hat in a plastic shopping bag when I'm traveling and not wearing it.

When to take off your cowboy hat

  • When a casket is "passed" in a funeral procession, during the National Anthem, the Passing of the Flag, Pledge of Allegiance, in church, during a prayer, during an indoor funeral, or at an indoor wedding. With your right hand over your heart, hold your hat in the left hand. Alternatively, you can place your hat over your heart while holding it in your right hand. Both options are acceptable.
  • If necessary, remove your hat (by the crown) when you are introduced to a woman so that you can shake her hand with your right.
  • Anyone who is your elder or a "Man of the Cloth" should be subject to this as well. In other terms, clergy members such as a pastor or priest.
  • When you start a discussion with someone, however it's not necessary if you're just saying "hi" to someone as you walk by.
  • It's customary to take off your hat while entering a private residence. Unless somebody else is sporting their cap. Then it is regarded as having your host's or hostess's blessing.
  • Take off your hat by the crown at all times. Some individuals do use their brim, but it must be a robust brim. Never use the brim's edge. The most traditional method is to take off the hat by the crown.
  • You should never set a cowboy hat on its brim. Put your hat on its crown with the brim up. A hat stand or rack can also be used.
  • Never expose your hat's interior. The inside of the crown and the hat band shouldn't be exposed to the public.
  • Always take off your hat when dining in a restaurant, unless it's a fast food joint.

Wear the right cowboy hat during the correct season.

Wearing a felt hat in the middle of heat is not only unpractical, but it will also make you appear somewhat ridiculous. Felt hats make your head sweaty and uncomfortable, and spotting one in July makes it simple to tell the real cowboys from the tourists. When it gets hot outside, wear straw hats, and when it gets cold outside, use felt hats.

Buy a well-fitted cowboy hat.

Nothing is funnier-looking than a person wearing a hat that is too big for them. If it's too huge, a light breeze might easily blow it off. If it's too small, you'll appear crammed within the crown and feel uncomfortable.

Remove your cowboy hat when you’re indoors.

Yet another aspect of being a true cowboy is taking off your hat when entering a building. If a lady is present, you should take off your hat once you're in a room with other people. Elevators, lobbies, and building corridors are exceptions to this rule.

Hold your hat the proper way.

Hold your hat by the crown as you take it off so that the lining is hidden. Don't try to exert too much pressure on the crown, either.

When you set your hat down, place it upside down.

Set your hat upside down while storing it in a hat box or leaving it on a flat surface. This allows the hat to breathe and preserves the brim's form. Plus, an old cowboy superstition holds that setting the hat with the brim down will cause all the luck to run out. Never laying your hat on your bed is also very significant because it is considered unlucky.

Never mess with another cowboy’s hat.

Leave cowboys' hats alone unless you want conflict since they are really personal property. A cowboy's significant other is the only person who is permitted to touch or take off their cowboy hat.

Never leave your cowboy hat in the car or truck.

The shape of a cowboy hat can be significantly altered by heat. Both straw and felt can be harmed if you leave your hat in a car frying in the summer's intense heat. Never forget to keep that in mind as you travel.

Don't wear your cowboy hats backwards.

For the uninformed, it's simple to accidentally wear a cowboy hat backward, but in superstition, it's unlucky. Any buckles, feather plumes, or other embellishments should be on the left side of the band. Usually, the left side of the hatband is tied. Some hats come with a knot at the back that sits. Aside from it, the front is smaller than the rear. To tell the front from the back, use the manufacturer's label in the internal sweatband.


Bottom Line About Cowboy Hat Etiquette

Unlike other headgear, such as baseball caps or fedoras, cowboy hats are unique. These hats have a lengthy and interesting past. You'll stand out from drugstore and city cowpokes if you know how to wear them properly. After studying cowboy etiquette, you're prepared to purchase a men's or women's cowboy hat and wear it with respect.

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