I’ve come to realize something about cowboys and lineage… this is a touchy crowd. From what does “first brand in Montana” REALLY mean, to this next—contentious topic: Cowboy Crowns.
The base camp of Cowboy aficionados, Western elitists and part-time historicists has got to be the cowboy hat style itself. The cowboy hat is the quintessential symbol of the working cattleman or vaquero still to this day.
I dare someone to make a claim as to the most authentic cowboy hat style… in fact if you go to North 40’s Facebook (right here) you can post your Cowboy hat picture directly to our page and stake your claim.
I would like to see the social media carnage that ensues. That’s a challenge.
First some definitions. Cowboy hat: normally a brimmed hat with a medium to high crown that serves as a functional addition to the wardrobe of someone constantly working with cattle, horses or other livestock. These jobs usually keep the individual exposed to sun, rain and all manner of elements, and the cowboy hat emerged as a tool to keep cowboys working.
If your hat does its job and you work in a traditional ranch or agriculture job, congratulations, you’ve got an authentic cowboy hat. That’s the simple part.
Now the fun part. Let’s define what I mean by cowboy hat styles: I am talking about a combination of factors: brim width and roll, crown shape, material and even the amount of WEAR exhibited by the hat—all of these are integral parts of what makes a cowboy hat authentic.
What follows is the briefest overview and look into the world of cowboy hat styles: the crown.
Straw hats are for the summer months, felt for the colder months, and remember—pay attention to the crown in this article, the brim and material are an entirely separate animal.
The Cattleman Crown: This cowboy crown was once a status symbol. Originally worn by cattle man as a way to designate ownership of cattle/ranches, this style has become the basic style of most cowboy hats today.
The Gus, or South Slope Crown: When people traveled less, crown creases developed so that they became endemic to their counties or locales, much like a dialect or language derivation. The Montana crease or Montana slope, was created on a Montana ranch and recast as “The Gus” by Gus McCrae in Lonesome Dove.
The Gambler or Telescopic Peak: This hat crown also finds a historical base in the late 80’s and came to us from the charros up from Mexico. It is a lower crown that covers the head, but lacks the additional space above which would normally trap hot air. This is my favorite style paired with a flat buckaroo brim.
The true straw hat season begins after Easter, and the felt season begins again after Labor Day.