The Birth of the Cowboy Hat

The Birth of the Cowboy Hat

Today when we see a cowboy hat, we think of bull riders and barrel racers. We think of those that break wild horses, and spend hour’s outdoors on the trail, but the western hat stands for so much more. One thing we all know for a fact is that the cowboy hat symbolizes the American West.


The symbolic cowboy hat was worn by the cowboys working the long trail drives herding their horses and cattle over the open range bringing them back to the ranch for branding or for sales. Why was this type of western hat worn the most?


The cowboy hat was known for its practical uses.  The wide brim of the hat had several uses from fanning a fire, whipping a horse, giving shade from the sun and protection from the wind and rain. The crown of the hat was creased to fit the cowboy’s hand giving him better control over the hat. Each hat was fitted to the individual. It was used long before the cowboys for a different purpose.


John B Stetson originally designed the cowboy hat during the civil war in 1865.   The Stetson hat is still made today.

He made the crown rounded and high and the brim wide for protection against the weather. They were made out of beaver, rabbit and other game that had fine water repellent hair. Making them waterproof was important to keep the soldiers dry. Because of the hats versatility it quickly became the hat of choice of anyone working outside.


The cowboy took the Stetson and shaped it to work better for them. They rolled the wide brim on the sides to keep the brim from interfering with their ropes, but still offered them protection from the sun and rain. The creased the crown to make it easier to hang onto.  They needed a hat they could take off at a moments notice to whip their horse into a faster pace, or fan the fire to keep it going on a cold night. The cowboy hat began to take its shape and become the icon of the American west and the Cowboy.


The Cowboy hat still holds the traditions of the past and it has spread across the world because of its functionality and fashion statement. There are several different style to fit different needs and it has many names, but the cowboy hat of the old west will always have a place on American Ranchers and Rodeo’s cowboys.