Sep 09, 2023

The 7 best cowboy hats of 2023 and how to wear them, per experts



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Giddy up, partner. Whether you’re embarking on a trip to the ranch or are simply looking to tap into Western style, a cowboy hat is sure to do the trick.

The year 1865 was when the cowboy hat was introduced as we know it — according to the costume designers we spoke with — and is now an emblem of Western-inspired style as we know it today, lassoing from one generation to the next.

However, there's more to the tried-and-true cowboy hat than you may think, which is why we spoke to two of the very best experts who know everything there is about these wild, wild accessories: Janie Bryant, costume designer of ‘1883‘ and ‘1923’ and Johnetta Boone, costume designer of ‘Yellowstone.’

"To design a character, especially when designing a Western, I always say the hat makes the man, because on camera — on the screen — that's what you’re seeing and that's truly what gives the actor his or her character," Bryant exclusively told the New York Post. (Related: Best cowgirl boots).

Ahead, the New York Post rounded up the 7 best cowboy hats of 2023 to best suit your style, pulling in tips and advice from both costume designers. More, you won't want to miss our in-depth FAQ section where you’ll learn the history of the cowboy hat, what materials to look for and how to style them.

Tecovas’ The Ranchman Cowboy Hat is a quality hat to sport outside, thanks to its 100% rabbit fur felt make. When shopping online, beaver hats — what both costume designers we spoke to recommend — are a bit harder to come by, but this material is a close substitute.

More, its grosgrain hatband is adorned with an arrowhead pin, providing a country accent for a bit of pizzazz. Its flat 4″ brim with its quarter taco crease is both comfortable and flattering on the head, too.

For an affordable cowboy hat that's less than $30 on Amazon, we recommend picking up the Lanzom Felt Wide-Brim Cowboy Hat. It's clad with a belt buckle and a modern-day curved brim at each side, allowing you to benefit from additional sun protection if worn outside.

Plus, while it's made of felt, it's nearly as good as the ones used on the sets of "1883," "1923" and "Yellowstone"; beaver felt was what was used so, although this material isn't exact, it’ll still hold up pretty well.

The Overland Teton Crushable Wool Cowboy Hat has the look and durability of prized cowboy hats on the market for a fraction of the price. What's great about this one is not only its rope band — a handsome add-on — but also that it comes in multiple colors.

Fun-fact (that's also in our FAQ section): if you live in hotter climates, you’ll want to grab a lighter-shaded hat (instead of black) so to not draw in the heat. Additionally, our team of costume design experts recommend wool as a close substitution to beaver felt.

While straw hats may not offer the best protection, they’re what the masses are searching for when shopping online for cowboy hats. Pick up the Stetson Straw Cowboy Hat for one of the best names in the biz. You’ll snag a good ol’ hat for less than $50 and it has an exaggerated crease indent to easily take it on and off.

To snag that crushable wool material in a wide-brimmed hat style, the Silver Canyon Boot & Clothing Company has a swift hat up for grabs on Amazon. For less than $100, you’ll love its leather belt and feather accent — one of the most decorated bands we’ve found that still boasts a quality all-around wool material.

Though not a traditional cowboy hat per se, the Two Roads Five Points Wide Brim Fedora Hat is perfect for those who work outside in the heat — thanks to its ultra-light hue and extensive sun-shielding protection with its wide-brimmed design. Though more expensive than most, it's a practical, well-made buy.

We couldn't help ourselves — this braided band and flipped-up brim has us wanting to direct our own Western movie. The best part? The American Outback Hats Hollywood 100% Fine Leather Cowboy Hat is made of smooth-to-the-touch, elevated materials, attached neckpiece aside.

Costume designers of the "1883," "1923" and "Yellowstone" dive into what to look for in a cowboy hat, how they have designed them for the big screen and what to look for — practically and stylistically — in a quality cowboy hat.

The cowboy hat is so much about practicality, especially for "1883" and "1923" costume designer Janie Bryant.

"It's all about the big brim and the sun protection," she tells The Post. "At the time period, big-brimmed hats for cowboys were much a part of their culture. On "1883," specifically, the characters wear those kinds of hats. What we think of the cowboy hat today comes from that 1950s and1960s period — the cattleman style — and also the brim up on the side and traditional crease at the center."

While we may view cowboy hats as the quintessential Western-style accessory, it's interesting to note the unmatched protection they offer in the sun — how they’ve grown in popularity and continue to be a timepiece for those on the ranch, speciifcally.

"Cowboys were typically on horses from sunup to sundown, so it was important to have a covering on their head to protect them from the sun, rain, snow and from all the elements — the dirt and the wind as well," "Yellowstone" costume designer Johnetta Boone notes. "They didn't always start with a crease at the top and the brim curled up. The original hats that cowboys wore were open-crown with a smaller brim."

As time evolved, the brim became a bit wider to offer more protection, and the dimple at the top happened from natural wear, for the cowboys to take it on and off — making it easier to grab off their heads, too.

In ‘Yellowstone,’ cowboy hats surely played a large role, but uniquely with their distinct color as well.

"Typically, cowboys who work the ranch wear different colors from the ranch owners," Boone explains. "Now, you may find cowboys wearing black hats — the typical color of choice — but you may find some with a lighter color, depending on where they’re located, because black draws in a lot of heat. If you live in the South, you’d wear lighter colors so it doesn't attract the heat from the sun."

According to both Bryant and Boone, cowboy hats are typically made of beaver felt, a universally worn material that holds up in the rain. "You can dump the cowboy hat in water and shape it to your head, which is how to get those nooks and crannies in perfect shape, allowing the hat to mold on top of your head," Bryant shares.

While the cowboy hat you ultimately choose may strongly be influenced by aesthetics and shade, it's important to factor in your unique head shape to ensure a comfortable and practical fit.

"The shape of the cowboy hats are designed based on your facial features — your jawbone, your cheekbones and the size of your cranium — your head; that determines the style of the cowboy hat you wear," Boone notes. "Once that's determined, the next factor to keep in mind is wearability. That's why some are wider brim like Forrie J. Smith who plays Lloyd Pierce, as opposed to Cole Hauser, who plays Rip Wheeler."

More, Ryan Bingham, who plays Walker, wears an open crown — meaning, you don't have any curves at all — tangible proof that a cowboy hat comes down to personal style in addition to your facial structure.

"You may also see a difference in hat band, which can be leather, rope or braided horsehair," Boone adds. "For the indigenous people — like Moses Brings Plenty, who plays Mo — a feather may be added in the styling of how they wear their hats, and those feathers are very symbolic."

Interestingly, Boone learned on her "Yellowstone" journey that eagles are rather rare, with only Native Americans holding the honor and permission of handling them, even if one is found on the ground. "They’re also passed down from Natives on the tribe, so they wear them as an ornamentation on their hats," she chimes in.

As far as materials go, both Bryant and Boone recommend one that's made of beaver felt. However, if you’re interested in picking up a different material, wool is another option. Straw is also widely popular on the market, though more for a stylistic accessory than a wear-all-day-in-the-sun hat.

"Beavers are typical of the cowboy hat, so they can take moisture, heat and all the elements," Boone notes. "They’re best when caught in the rain and can take the shape of the head when wearing it. If it's a felt hat, it can collapse and is much harder to break them in."

If you watch an 1880s Western or go to a modern-day Halloween party where someone dresses up as a cowboy head-to-toe, you’ll likely notice that cowboy hats tend to hold their original shape. However, there are some differences.

"Traditional cowboy hats now, at a contemporary age, are different in that the sides are curled and the crease is at the center," Bryant highlights. "Also, straw accents and beaver and wool cowboys hats are common."

Bryant is seeing all different kinds of bands as well, ranging from leather and horsetail to ones with beading — the latter offering a more decorative and modern twist than what an 1880s cowboy hat would have been.

"A lot of times, the cowboy hats of the 1880s would have a curled brim at the front to help block the wind, but now it's curled more at each side," Bryant says.

The fun part? Pairing your cowboy hat with all the fringe and canvas you can think of. Bryant shares notes from designing "1883" and "1923" fashions that you can take with you when putting together that dust-kickin’ ensemble.

"Of course, the cowboy has to have his gauntlets for protection, a pair of canvas rough pants and cowboy boots, as well as carrying a rain slicker on the back of his saddle," she shares. "And, long johns — their underwear — underneath all of that. Cowboys would stay out on the range for long periods of time. They would stay in their clothes and wash them alongside the river until they were threadbare."

Check out the New York Post Shopping section for more content.

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