10 Cowboy Hat Etiquette To Follow

Cowboy Hat Etiquette
Wear felt cowboy hats in the winter and for formal occasions. Wear straw hats for informal occasions. Take hat off by the crown when entering a building or home, eating around a dining table, and for certain occasions such as indoor weddings, funeral processions, and the National Anthem.

1. Style For The Season

There are two main types of cowboy hats to consider, and knowing when to wear them is important. First, there are felt cowboy hats. These are seen as more formal and they are also warmer, meaning that they are best for colder months and also for more formal occasions.

The other type of western hat is the straw hat. These are much less formal, so they are better for informal events and everyday wear. However, your head is much more likely to get cold with these hats, so they are better for warmer summer months.

A general rule of thumb is to wear straw cowboy hats from May until Labor Day and felt hats for rest of the year. Of course, this is subject to change if, for example, it is raining. Your head is much more likely to get wet wearing a straw hat, so you might opt for a felt cowboy hat that day.

There are also leather cowboy hats that aren’t quite as common but can be worn year-round. However, know that they are much warmer than straw hats, so don’t choose this option on a particularly hot day. They are better for more informal occasions and not so much for formal events.

2. The Right Fit

The perfect cowboy hat fit is snug around the front and back of your head but a bit looser around the sides. It should not easily blow away with the breeze, but you should be able to put it on and take it off easily.

To choose a properly fitting hat, you must first measure your head with a soft measuring tape around the widest part of your head (about two finger widths above your eyebrow).

If you are wearing a cowboy hat for the first time, remember that it may stretch out and loosen up over time depending on the material, so it is best to check the particular brand and material to see if it stretches over time.

3. Handle With Care

Cowboy hat tradition and best practice say that removing it by the crown is the correct way to do it. Don’t remove it by the brim, as it can end up damaging or bending the brim.

When you are removing your hat, you want to be careful not to show the inside and lining to anyone. This is for your eyes only. When you set your hat down, hang it on a hat rack. If one is unavailable, be sure to put the crown down.

Never put the brim-side down, as it can lose its shape this way. There is also an old cowboy superstition that says it is bad luck to place the hat brim-side down.

4. Personal Property

A cowboy hat is a personal item and should not be messed with. Unlike baseball caps, it’s not a funny prank to steal a hat from a cowboy or cowgirl at all. A man’s hat (or woman’s hat) is their own personal property and is usually rather expensive.

Just like you wouldn’t steal someone’s cowboy boots, you should never mess with or steal someone’s cowboy hat, whether it’s a Stetson or a knock-off. People who wear it think of them as almost a sacred item, so as a general rule of thumb, just leave it be.

5. Indoor Etiquette

You should take off your hat when entering a public building or a private home. If you are attending a formal event, then you should keep your hat off. However, if it is an informal occasion, you can put it back on.

An exception to this rule is elevators, lobbies, and building corridors. However, when you enter a room with other people, remove your hat, especially if ladies are present.

6. Dining Out

If you are eating a casual meal at a counter or at a fast food restaurant, then feel free to put your hat back on. However, if you sit down to a meal at a table in a restaurant, you will want to keep it off.

Real cowboys, cowgirls, and cattlemen don’t need to remove their hats when they eat on the range as they are working.

7. Showing Respect

There are certain times that you should remove your hat as a sign of respect:

  • During the National Anthem, passing of the Flag, or Pledge of Allegiance
  • During prayer or in church
  • At an indoor wedding
  • During a funeral procession or at an indoor funeral
  • When meeting someone for the first time, especially a lady or an elder
  • When you enter a private home unless others are wearing their hats
  • At a movie or other indoor performance
  • At the dinner table

Hold it in your left hand so that you can use your right hand to cover your heart or shake the hand of the person you are meeting. However, in some cases, it is acceptable to hold the hat in your right hand and cover your heart with it.

8. Tipping

old man tipping his cowboy hat
Man tipping his cowboy hat

A hat can be tipped by slightly lifting the hat off of your forehead and can be replaced immediately. It does not matter which hand you use to tip the hat.

It is customary for men to tip their cowboy hats when meeting a lady (but make sure to remove your hat if you stop to talk or are being introduced). It is also customary for men to tip their hats when saying “excuse me,” “thank you,” “hello,” or “goodbye,” “how do you do,” or “you’re welcome” to anyone, male or female.

9. Superstitions

In Texas and across the old west and south, cowboys have always been superstitious. One superstition, as I mentioned earlier, is never to put your cowboy hat brim-side down, or all of your good luck will run out.

Another cowboy superstition is never to set your hat on a bed because it can invoke an argument, bad luck, injury, or even death. Some cowboys place snake rattlers, feathers, or other good-luck charms in their hats. If you are going to do so, it goes on the left side if you are a cowboy. For cowgirls, it goes on the right side.

Can I wear a cowboy hat if I’m not a cowboy?

People wearing cowboy hat
People wearing cowboy hat

Cowboy hats are iconic western wear but do not have to be worn by cowboys alone. Anyone can wear a cowboy hat to style their outfit, whether they are headed to a rodeo or a night out on the town. However, if you are going to wear it, follow the proper cowboy hat etiquette.

What do you do if someone puts their hat on your head?

If a male puts his cowboy hat on a female, it means he is interested in her. If they are talking and he does this, he’s flirting with her. If they are at a dance, it means he wants to dance with her.

This is a sign that he is trying to capture a woman’s attention. The woman can reciprocate as she sees fit. If she is interested, she may let him know. If not, perhaps she tells him.

Margaret Dunn

Margaret is a passionate writer based in Costa Rica, though she was raised in the southeastern US. Being from the South, good manners and proper etiquette were ingrained in her from a young age and she has always been fascinated with etiquette in different settings and places. When she is not writing, you can find her exercising, reading, or spending time with her family at the beach.

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