It’s been said that cowboys know how to tell where a fellow cowboy hails from by the shape of their hat and the rope on their saddle. I’m no expert on the hard and fast rope vs dally ropers, but I can tell a “flat hatter” from a Texas cowboy any day.
What your hat says about you
Your hat says a lot about you according to Tony Thompson, head wrangler at Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang, California.
“You can tell a lot about where a guy is from by his hat,” says Thompson.
Buckaroo’s or “flat hatters” have a hat with a low crown and flat brim. A flat hatter-hybrid of sorts is the standard “cattlemen’s crease” that you’ll see on rodeo cowboys. Where as the Texas cowboys wear their hats with a “taco crease.”
What is a taco crease? Visualize the shape of a taco shell with the ends tapering downward.
I’m told that Montana cowboys typically sport the cattleman’s crease. While a Hawaiian cowboy or paniolo, has been known to wear a floral lei around the hat band.
Montana hat maker
I met Jimmy ‘The Hat Man’ Harrison of Darby, Montana when I was on a horseback riding vacation at Triple Creek Ranch. Harrison had brought his gorgeous hats to the ranch for our shopping pleasure after a multi-day Klicks for Chicks trail ride into the Bitterroot Mountains.
Harrison has been making custom cowboy hats since 1994 when he apprenticed under a local hat maker from Dillon, Montana. Harrison’s hats are made of 100% beaver felt, making them water tight and preferable for year-round wear. His custom hats don’t come cheap, as they take a week to build and finish.
Code of the west
I asked Tony Thompson if there was any hat etiquette when it came to wearing a straw hat or felt hat. Thompson said that the day after Thanksgiving is felt hat time, while the day after Easter ushers in straw hat season, unless you are from Arizona or New Mexico. The southwest cowboys wear felt hats year round according to Thompson. He was quick to give credit to eight-time world champion bullrider Donnie Gay regarding the hat etiquette, but I couldn’t find any quotes from Gay on this particular cowboy hat topic.
If you wish to dispute this unwritten code of the west, I’m happy to hear from you. Do you wear your felt hat year round? If you wear a straw hat, which time of year signals the change of cowboy hats for you?
I haven’t had the opportunity to go on a horseback riding vacation in Italy, but I’m told that European cowboys have their own hat styles as well. Have you seen the Butteri cowboys from Italy? Cowboys from the Maremma region of Italy, have been herding Maremmana cattle for centuries.
I have attended a Charreada in San Antonio, Texas with Mexican horsemen and women. The sombrero, with its high pointed crown and wide brim is unique to the charro.
My husband was kind enough to buy me a custom cowboy hat for Christmas a couple of years ago. I had a stampede string put on my hat because it inevitably blows off when I am loping or if a strong wind comes up.
I’m always impressed when I see wranglers wearing cowboy hats like a second skin. How do they keep their hats on their head?
“Every hat needs to be broken in,” according to Tony Thompson. “You have to wear a hat everyday so that it molds to your head,” he notes.
Do you wear a cowboy hat? What does your hat say about you?