Given a mention of the cowboy hat and your imagination will immediately transport you to intrepid riders on their bucking broncos in the dusty plains of the Wild West. While there are many popular hat styles, there is nothing as recognizable as a cowboy hat. They have transcended the distance from practical headgear to a style and culture icon. You will be hard put to think of anything else you can wear as easily to the beach or a special red carpet event. A brief lowdown on unarguably the world’s most recognizable hat:

The Mythical History of the “Boss of the Plains”

History says that John Batterson Stetson, the son of a New Jersey haberdasher, designed the original cowboy hat in the mid-1860s. This hat that went by the name “Boss of the Plains” proved to be so popular that a century and a half later; it remains as popular, if not more. The idea of the cowboy hat with its distinctive high crown and wide brim struck Mr. Stetson when recuperating from ill health in Colorado to protect wearers from the burning sun and rain. So buoyed was he by the initial reception his unique hat got that he established a small store after returning to Philadelphia to sell his creation to the northeastern bankers and businessmen. However, it was not until the last years of the 19th century that he struck gold with real-life cowboys in Texas adopting it as their uniform. Today, it has gone on to become a sign of American national identity with the common man and celebrities in music and film. A truly remarkable thing about the cowboy hat is that despite the passage of time and passing fashion trends, its basic shape has not undergone any change. All you get is a wider choice of materials and colors.

Different Cowboy Hat Styles

A tall rounded crown with a flat and wide flat characterized the original cowboy hat designed by Stetson. The typical materials were felt and straw, and occasionally, leather. A band on the inside not only helped it to retain its shape but also absorbed excess sweat. Often there was a decorative band on the outside to accentuate its features. The most popular colors were brown, beige, and black though nowadays you can get them in virtually every color. However, the customization of the crown with distinctive creases and the brim shape gives birth to different styles of the cowboy hat. Some of the more popular cowboy hat crease styles available at include:

The Cattleman Crease: It is perhaps the oldest cowboy hat crease style and was the result of the need to differentiate it from the rodeo cowboy look. The Cattleman features a narrower but taller crown of around four to five inches, a single crease on the center, and two creases on the sides. As the crown was larger, wearers could pull the hat down over their ears during high winds or rain. A preferred headgear by gentlemen at parties and weddings, there are few variations in the styling depending on individual choice. You can get this hat both in felt and straw.

The Pinch Front Crease: A popular style, it draws inspiration from two common types of crowns, the diamond crown and the tear-drop crown, both of which, you can see on trilbys, fedoras, and outback style hats. The Pinch Front Cowboy hat is styled in the manner of traditional cowboy hats but has a wider brim than a Fedora. The style works well for narrower jawlines.

The Montana/Tom Mix Crease: The style gets its name from the state and has a crease style similar to the Cattleman but has some differences. The indentations on the sides of the crown are smaller and less pronounced at the back. However, the dent in the center is deeper and pinched. The hat appears to ride high on the back and slope towards the front, while the brim is typically traditional Cattleman Style. The Tom Mix Crease hat with a more accentuated pinch at the front is a popular Hollywood icon.

Telescope Gambler Crease

Also known as the Gambler Cowboy Hat, the Telescope Crease hat style is derived from the hats worn by the Mexican cowboys of South American labor who came to Nevada to seek work. The low-height crown prevents hot air from accumulating so it wears cooler, while the wide brim delivers excellent shade from the blazing sun. Commonly made of felt, fur, and wool, the Telescope Gambler appears similar to the Bolero. It has also spawned many variants, Porkpie being one of the most well-known. The Telescope Gambler has a completely rounded top without a crease. It gets its name from a small and circular indentation in the crown’s middle that looks like the lens of a telescope. According to Forbes, cowboy hats pair perfectly with casual or fashionable clothes.

The Open Crown Crease: Even though it has a name like that, the crown is completely round and does not have a crease. It looks like the sombrero and is more popularly known as the “10-gallon hat”, a term derived from the gallons or hats with braided hatbands worn by the Mexican vaqueros who came into contact with the Texan ranchers and cowboys. The brim may be like a sombrero or feature upturns like those found on a Cattleman.


As cowboy hats became more popular for their functionality, they also became a fashion statement fast with city slickers who preferred to adopt a macho look popularized by country folk singers and Hollywood actors overcoming indomitable odds in their films. As a result, many of the popular cowboy hats have morphed into urban headgear that looks more elaborate and ornate with a variety of bells and whistles. Nowadays, you can see men and women wearing cowboy hats not only when out in the open or at the beach to protect themselves from the sun but also at various formal and informal parties, including dinners and weddings. It has also become an urban fashion statement with people sporting them at music festivals or tourists wanting to recapture the ambiance of a bygone era.

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