How to Choose the Right Western Hat and Maintain It

Lyle Lovett probably said it best: ?You can have my girl, but don’t touch my hat.?

There aren?t a lot of things men take too seriously about fashion, but their hats are definitely one of them. You can tell a lot about someone by his hat. No hat is shaped exactly the same, but there are a few basic starting points depending on what corner of the show barn you’re in.

Western retailer Sean Ryon of Fort Worth, Texas, laid out some basic ground work for hat shapes and care. Find one that best fits your interest, and then crease it to your own personal style.

Hat Shapes

There are two basic principles to start with hat shapes. The event you compete in is first, and the shape of your face is second.

There are certain basic standards judges look for in particular classes. For example in halter, western pleasure and showmanship classes, judges are looking for a crisper look. The front of the brim should be extremely straight and shouldn?t have a dip in the front. The crown will be fairly narrow, and the vents on the sides are pulled out a little longer.

Cutting and reining have a little more leeway. Cutters usually have a lower crown, and the brim is laid out a little flatter. Generally, the reiner will fall somewhere between the cutter and the show crease. There’s no definite trend in the ranch horse versatility classes, but the general shape is probably closest to the reiner. It’s just a little softer in the front, and the sides are up a little higher.

The basic rule of thumb when it comes to the shape of a hat paired with the shape of your face is as follows:

  • Narrow face?The hat should have a narrower crown and have the edges tipped up a little more than average.
  • Round face?The front should sit a little lower and the sides not quite as high.

Storage and Care


The best thing you can do for your felt hat in the summer time is let it dry out. Never store it in a plastic bag, because it will hold moisture and lose shape.

Hat cans are great for keeping the dust off your hat in the stall, but after the show, take the hat back to the hotel and let it sit open and dry out. Keep your hat out of the sun, but leave it sitting a place where it can dry out. Always make sure your felt is completely dry before brushing it, or the brushing will actually rub the dirt in instead of off the hat. You can use either a soft-bristle brush or a felt hat-cleaning sponge. Don?t store your felt in the hot horse trailer. Remember to bring it into the house when you get home from the show. Figure on getting your hat professional creased about twice a year to maintain its shape.


Straw hats aren?t built to last forever, but with proper care, you can make them last a lot longer. You can clean off dust with Windex or a fairly mild cleaner on a rag.

Sweat stains are difficult to get out. Help prevent the sweat from soaking through the sweat leather by lining the inside of the band with a piece of Saran Wrap. This also works for light-colored felt hats.

Halter Hat Trends

Halter hats are moving up. Well, the sides of their brims are. Ryon says he has noticed people asking for their brims turned up a little more on the sides, so you can see the exhibitor and the hat doesn’t overpower the face.

From America’s Horse Daily and AQHA.

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