Cowboy Hat 101: How to Create the Perfect Look

Cowboy Hat 101: How to Create the Perfect Look

Use these cowboy hat shaping and cleaning tips to make your hat look as sharp as your ride.

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The cowboy hat is an iconic symbol of the American West. From the open range to the arena, the Cowboy hat is known as an icon in the western industry. It represents the work and dedication that built the American dream - the same work and dedication that you put into being an American Quarter Horse owner.  Hours spent in the practice pen and days agonizing over plans to improve your American Quarter Horse’s performance all go into the preparation it takes to compete. 

You don’t cut corners practicing, and you shouldn’t with your appearance, either. It’s well known that a good hat helps finish the professional look we all strive for in and out of the arena. No cowboy hat is exactly the same, but it’s easy to find a hat that is perfect for you, depending on your preferred discipline.


Before you purchase a cowboy hat, you need to know what you’re getting for your money. Determining the perfect hat for you comes down to a few basic guidelines- quality, color, style, and price. There are many variations amongst the hat industry, but when considering a felt hat one factor remains consistent: the higher the number of X’s, the higher the quality of hat. A higher number of X’s means that the hat contains a higher percentage of beaver, which makes the hat more durable, and able to hold a shape better. Felt hats commonly use a combination of beaver and other furs. Always remember- the higher number of X’s, the longer your hat can last. 


Shape and Style

Once you’ve decided on the perfect hat for you, its time to choose a shape that will match your style! Choosing a shape for your hat is just as important as deciding the quality. Although you may have the same color of hat as someone else, the shape and style you choose will make your hat one-of-a-kind. When determining the shape remember to consider two things- the shape of your face and where you will wear your hat. 

When distinguishing your style in relation to your face shape the basic rule of thumb is- the corners of your brim should be the width of your face. This means a narrower face typically has a narrower brim and/or crown and a rounder face should sit a little lower and wider. Remember, your hat needs to make a statement but yet fulfill its purpose. 

There are many different shapes for several intended purposes. A few reference points are below to help you choose what would work best for you.


All-around events (Halter, western pleasure, showmanship, horsemanship) are events that are known for having and overall high, tight, and crisp hat appearance in the show arena. In these classes, exhibitor hat brims are usually more creased upward with no dip in the front. The crown should be creased fairly narrow, and vents on the side are pulled out a little longer. 

Other classes that include cattle, like cutting and cowhorse, lean more towards a relaxed look with the brim; the same style that can be found working cattle on the range.  They usually have a lower crown, and the brim is laid out flatter to protect your face from the elements. Reining generally shape their hats to fall in between the cutter and the show crease. Versatility ranch horse classes bring the style of the working horse industry to the show arena with a mixture of cutting and reining styles. 

Trail riding enthusiasts need to choose a shape that will help protect from the elements. They typically choose a crown and brim style that is wider yet works best with their face shape and preferred style. 

Storage and Care

You have your hat and are ready to ride, but how do you care for it? Whether your hat is straw or felt, you want to make it last long and stay looking sharp.

Hat cans are great for both straw and felt hats to reduce the dust that settles on them. A hat can also protects a hat from damage caused by traveling or sitting out in the open where it can be crushed or stepped on.

Felt hats are susceptible to losing their shape from moisture. Avoid storing a felt hat in a plastic bag and try to keep it from getting wet. If your felt hat does get wet, let it sit out with the crown down to dry away from the sun on a flat surface. Make sure it is completely dry before brushing it; otherwise, you will rub dirt in rather than remove it. You can use either a soft-bristle brush or a felt hat cleaning sponge to remove dust and debris. To make your felt hat last, plan to get it professionally creased and cleaned about twice a year so it will maintain its shape. Remove it from the hot horse trailer when you are done showing. This will aid in keeping the shape and extend the longevity of your investment.


Straw hats are not meant to last like felt, but with proper care, you can enjoy your straw hat for a long time. You can clean off dust with a mild cleaner on a rag. Sweat stains are difficult to get out, so the best action is to be proactive against stains. One way to help prevent sweat from soaking through the sweatband is to line the inside of the band with a piece of plastic wrap. This also works for light-colored felt hats.


The cowboy hat is a symbol of the American West and the work ethic required to settle it. It has become more than just a tool to shade men and women from long hours in the sun. It is a symbol of our western heritage and the lifestyle we love.


Shorty's Caboy Hattery

As the official custom western hat of AQHA, Shorty's Caboy Hattery stands out in a crowd and is loved by many in the equine industry.

Shorty’s Caboy Hattery was founded in 1990 by Lavonna “Shorty” Koger and can be found in the Historic Stockyards of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Shorty had a passion for horses growing up and was involved with rodeos at a young age. Now, Shorty’s hats are seen throughout the western industry. Every Shorty’s hat is handmade and crafted with the dedication to quality, trust, and tradition you thought was lost. Shorty offers quality straw and custom felt hats, as well as hat renovation services for all brands. Shorty’s hats are custom fitted and designed one hat at a time with over 100 years of craftsmanship. 

To find out more about Shorty’s Caboy Hattery, visit