Types of Cowboy Hat Styles and Creases
A Guide to the Many Types of Cowboy Hats and Creases
Although many cowboy and western hats started with a similar design, cowgirls and boys quickly began to change things up. To showcase individual character, they began customizing western hats by creasing the crown and rolling the brim in various ways (along with adding accessories, such as hat bands). Below are a few of the more popular crown creases and brim rolls that have now become their own sub-styles of cowboy hats.
Cowboy Hat Creases That Have Become Their Own Subgenres
The Cattleman is the oldest and most traditional subgenre of cowboy hat. It features a trio of top crown creases and a slightly curled brim. The crown is narrower (oftentimes between four and five inches tall), and has a single crease down the center and two creases along the side. Although functionally the Cattleman’s Hat is very useful during high winds or rains, since it can be pulled down further on the head so it isn’t blown off, it’s often considered the Gentleman’s choice of western hat. Because of this, this hat style is often worn during formal events and parties, or out on the town.
In the Wild West, many regions had their own unique style of crease and cowboy hat. One of the more notable styles was the Montana Crease. This western hat type is very similar to the Cattleman with a few distinct differences. Like the Cattleman, it has three crown creases. However, the indentations on the sides of the crown are smaller and less pronounced than on the back of the crown. The center dent is more pronounced and pinched on the front, but much more distinct on the back of the crown. This creates the look that the hat slopes downward to a point and crests high on the back.
Tom Mix set the precedent for most hats during the 1920s and 30s. Considered the original cowboy movie superstar, he and John B Stetson are two of the most influential cowboy hat wearers to date. The Tom Mix Crease (also called The Gus, in some areas) is a take on the Montana Crease with a more pronounced pinch on the front of the crown and a brim that has a half inch upturn. The crown has two dots (creases). They’ve come to be called “reach and grab” because cowboys tended to reach for their hats and grab them by the front of the crown, thus leaving these indents on both sides of the crown with their fingers.
The Brick is very similar to the Cattleman. The main difference between the two styles is that the Brick has a squarer crown and takes on more of a drop shape with its right and left curled brim, which looks like - you guessed it - a brick! Similar to the Cattleman, the Brick functions excellently in high winds and rain while also looking fantastic at more formal events.
Sticking with the theme of western hat subgenres that are slight variations of the Cattleman’s Hat, the Biggs Crease is smaller, high up on the crown of the hat, and nearly pinched to a line on the right and left of the crown. These hats often feature a squared brim with the sides pulled up ever-so-slightly.
Pinched Front Hats are another classic western style. When viewed from the top, the crown boasts a diamond or teardrop shape paired with a wider brim, and partial dents on the left, right, and top of the crown. The brim is usually either flat or slightly curled. This Pinch Front crown is similar (or the same) as crowns seen on formal fedoras, trilbies, and some outback style hats, but is paired with a more traditional cowboy brim. As many believe this style tends to accentuate delicate jaw lines and help the wearer’s face appear thinner, this is often the preferred crease for women.
Although not a traditional cowboy hat, the American Outback Hat is certainly a western-style hat worn by cowgirls and boys that serves similar purposes. Either boasting a flat or Pinch Front crown, and wide, shapeable brim, the Outback Hat offers ultimate weather protection and fits tightly so that it is unlikely to be blown off by wind. Made to be crushable and packable while still holding its shape, it’s oftentimes a more practical option than a cowboy hat.
The Gambler Cowboy Hat, also known as the Telescope Crease, derived from Charros (Mexican Cowboys) who traveled from South America to Mexico and Nevada for work. Its shorter, flat-topped crown keeps hot air from accumulating in the hat while its wide brim provides excellent sun protection. Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind made this hat style famous initially, and it often was called the “Planter’s Hat” as many wealthy landowners considered it the classier alternative to the traditional cowboy hat.
Pork Pie Hats, also called English pastry hats, were derived from the Telescope Gambler Hat. The classic small round hats were more recently given attention after Walter White’s alter ego “Heisenberg” wore one in Breaking Bad. To add to the limelight, fashion writer Glenn O'Brien of GQ magazine once said Pork Pie Hats are, "the mark of the determined hipster, the kind of cat you might see hanging around a jazz club or pool hall... a Tom Waits, Johnny Thunders kind of hat."
The Open Crown Crease, or “10 Gallon Hat,” has a crown that resembles a sombrero, and a brim that’s either upturned all around (like a sombrero), or upturned on the sides (like a Cattleman). Many believe the nickname “10 Gallon Hat” derived from hat bands Mexican vaqueros wore called “galons” in Spanish. The hat crown was large enough to hold ten gallons.
The Derby (what the hat is called in England), also known as the Bowler Hat (in the US), was originally created in England around 1849 by a gentleman named Bowler. It became extremely popular among working class people during the Victorian era. When brought to America by immigrants, it caught on like wildfire in the Old West - largely because it didn’t blow away in the wind, even when sticking one’s head out train windows.
The Derby Western is similar to the traditional Derby or Bowler Hat (depending on which side of the pond you reside) in that it features a distinct, dimple-free round crown. Western Derbies have long and slightly up-curled brims, whereas traditional Derbies have shorter brims with a slight curl on the right and left of the brim.
Western-style hats come in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials, and colors. If you want to give the air of a wealthy landowner, choose a black Gambler hat with decorative band. If you prefer the look of the Wild West hero, opt for a white Cattleman or Tom Mix style hat. If you need your hat for travel, consider Outback-style hats. And if you can’t find any that fit your style, buy a hat of the color and material you desire, and shape it yourself.