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Cowboy hats have been a staple in western fashion for over 150 years. Since their invention, there have been several different types of cowboy hats created.
The modern-day American cowboy hat was first invented in 1865 by John B. Stetson. The first cowboy hat had a tall rounded crown and round flat brim, relatively ordinary compared to today’s standards. It had a simple sweatband on the inside to provide a secure fit.
As time went on, customization of the cowboy hat began by creasing the crown and rolling the brim. This led to the creation of different styles that are still popular today.
Straw, felt and leather became the most common materials to use for making cowboy hats. The cowboy hat went beyond being a practical and functional piece and also became a fashion statement. Embellishments and decorative headbands soon became popular additions to hats.
Types of Cowboy Hats
The most common types of cowboy hats are the Cattleman, Gus, Pinched Front, Montana/Tom Mix, Gambler, Brick, Amish, Derby, and Open Crown. These styles vary by crease, as well as brim. Each style is unique and makes for an iconic western look.
Here are the main types of cowboy hats:
Cattleman is the most popular style of cowboy hat you will see. It is the oldest and most traditional type.
The style began when ranch owners wanted to differentiate themselves from rodeo riders. It has a taller yet narrower crown, around four to five inches. The crown has a single crease down the middle with two creases on either side.
The larger crown was beneficial for cowboys when it would rain or was windy, as they could pull it down further so it would stay on better. Said to be the Gentleman’s style of hat, it is commonly worn at weddings and other formal events. It is a popular style in both felt and straw.
A common variation of the Cattleman is the Brick, which has a squarer brim. Biggs is another common variation of the Cattleman style, as the creases are smaller and higher up on the crown, pinching nearly to a line. The sides of the brim also tend to fold up slightly more.
The Gus crease is quite similar to the Cattleman style. It is an old-style hat that has a more Outback appearance to it than the traditional Cattleman.
Like the Cattleman, the Gus has a high crown with a single crease down the middle, with two creases on the side. However, the crown slightly slopes down. Nicknamed the “reach and grab,” in some places it is considered a Tom Mix.
3. Pinched Front
The Pinched Front, also called the Pinch Front Crease, is another classic western style. It combines two common crown styles, the tear-drop crown, and the diamond crown, with partial dents on the sides
The crown of the Pinched Front is similar to that of formal fedoras, trilbies, and outback-style hats. However, it has a wider, more traditional cowboy brim than those hats. The brim generally slightly curls up and it is most commonly straw.
The Pinched Front style tends to accentuate delicate jawlines. It is a popular choice among women and you will see this style come in many different designs and colors.
4. Montana/Tom Mix
The Montana hat is also similar to the Cattleman, but does have a few distinct differences. It does have three creases on the crown, however, on the back, the creases are smaller and less pronounced.
The center dent is more pronounced than the other two and pinches on the front, creating a sloping appearance. The Tom Mix is a take on the Montana hat, but it has a more prominent pinch on the front of the crown. In addition, the brim has a ½ inch upturn.
The Tom Mix set the standard for most fashionable hats in the 1920s and 1930. It was commonly worn among movie stars in old westerns. It is also similar to the Gus, but it has a larger crown.
The Gambler crease, or Telescope crease, comes from Mexican cowboys, known as Charros, who traveled from South America to Mexico and Nevada for ranch work. The hat is ideal for hot climates, as the lower crown prevents hot air from accumulating and the wide brim offers excellent sun protection.
The Gambler is most commonly felt or fur. It was made popular by Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. It soon became a top choice among many wealthy landowners as an alternative to the traditional cowboy hat.
Other hat styles have come from the Gambler including the Pork Pie hats. The Pork Pie hat is a classic round hat that became popular for Walter White in Breaking Bad.
6. Open Crown
The Open Crown cowboy hat has a completely round crown and does not have any creases. It has a similar appearance to a sombrero, but does not have as large of a brim.
The Open Crown also has a round, flat brim that does not turn up. It is also famously nicknamed the “10-gallon hat.” Some people claim that it got this nickname as it can hold 10 gallons of water, but this is not true. The nickname is derived from hats that Mexican vaqueros wore with braided hatbands, which are called galóns.
The Brick hat is very similar to the Cattleman style. It is a particularly great style to wear in high winds and rains, while also being a sharp-looking hat for formal events.
The main difference between the Brick and the Cattleman is that the Brick has a crown that is more square. In addition, the design has more of a drop shape along its right and left curled brim. The singular rectangular dimple gives it an appearance similar to a brick.
The Amish cowboy hat has a flat, smaller brim which is much different compared to traditional styles such as the Gus and Cattleman. The crown is typically slightly rounded.
It is generally made of straw and will often feature a black band. In some cases, Amish hats may also be made of black felt. This style of hat is very popular in Amish communities.
Generally known as the Derby in England and the Bowler in America, this style is quite different from other cowboy hats. The derby was created in 1849 by a man named Bowler in England and became popular among the working class during the Victorian era.
The elegant and practical style of the hat soon caught on in America, as they did not fly off the head as easily. It has a smooth, rounded crown with no dimples. Western derbies have larger curled-up brims than the traditional derby does. Traditional derbies have a short brim with a curl on the right and left of the brim.