Most cowpokes haven’t a clue as to the style of their cowboy hats. And, most of us city slicks or wannabe cowboys simply stick with what looks best on our heads.
If we want to know about what makes for particular styles, the following guide will help to identify the types.
Cowboy hats take an identity by three important elements:
- shape of the crown,
- curl of the brim,
- the folks who wore them most.
These elements are generalizations, but they follow pretty well for the better-made brands of custom cowboy hats. Departures from standard crown styles, brim curls as well as use distortions, folklore, or customizations can render a cowboy hat unidentifiable as to the style we call it.
But, no worries, because real cowboys can’t be constrained by nomenclature, current condition, or who was or wasn’t under the brim. Every cowboy hat is unique despite that they all started out pretty much the same before they were formed into one of the following styles.
Two creases with a trough, or dip, in the middle typically shape the crown of a cowboy hat. This crown shape in a cowboy hat is called the Ranger style, and it is the most commonly seen style of cowboy hat around.
Most ranger hats have the creases and dip straight across the crown. Some slant down toward the back. Others slant down toward the front. An infinite variety of placement, position, depth, and slant of the creases is what makes a cowboy hat your own. But if the hat has two peaks at the crown with a dip in between, a Ranger style cowboy hat is what you have
And yes, they were worn by Texas Rangers trying to tame that pioneer republic before there were such things as police. Texas Rangers are the oldest state law enforcement group in the nation, securing people's safety to this day in the heat of the sun in the most untamed parts of the West.
The hat style was popularized by the sheer power, authority, and principle it evoked, particularly the fictional representative, the Lone Ranger, the hero of good men and women settling the frontier amid heat and hardship.
A cowboy hat with four creases radiating out from the top of the crown is called a Montana Peak. The creases create a high spot that imparts distinguishable height to the crown.
Perhaps the creases created the look of a mountain peak in Montana. Whatever mountains those mounds evoked, the Mounties of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police wore them proudly, establishing the style well beyond Canada or Montana.
The Montana Peak is further distinguished by little, if any, curl of the brim and is often accompanied by an chin strap to keep it securely on the heads of riders doing their deeds on horseback.
When no creases are pressed into the round crown, a hat is called a straight crown. When a straight crown is flattened on top, it’s called a Hispanic felt hat. When a Hispanic felt hat has a crease around the top flat perimeter of the crown, it’s called a vaquero. Got that, cowboy?
Vaquero literally means ‘cowboy’ in Spanish. The hat style took the name of the Spanish horsemen of the early Southwest, who must have had enough of their sombreros flopping around with too much crown and unwieldy brims.
The vaquero sports little curl to its brim, more often showing no curl at all. The flat crown and flat brim lends a look of simplicity and serious austerity to the style. They, in turn, speak of the strict straight-forward character of its wearers, including the deadly serious law keeper, Wyatt Earp, played by Kurt Russell in Tombstone, the movie that brought the vaquero style cowboy hat to international attention on the big screen.