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How to Choose a Straw Cowboy Hat

When it comes to wearing straw cowboy hats, there's etiquette... then there's cowboy etiquette.

Straw cowboy hats are for the warmer months (our selection is online here), that seems simple enough, but the array of styles and materials that you can get in a straw hat can put even the most veteran wearer on their heels… so we broke it down for you below.

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Bangora & other "Work" Cowboy Hats

Bangora hats are made on a machine... and because they are made on a machine, they are normally less expensive than hand-woven hands. A good option for a working cowboy hat. But Bangora isn't the only one!

Bangora, some sisal types and 5X straw hats (find them here) will stand up to the elements of your jobs, and will keep you cool during the summer months.

One draw back? Most of these hat types are lacquered after they are made to help them keep their shape. So remember: be careful if you try to clean them, you could actually mess up the lacquer and forfeit the shape of your hat!

Straw Cowboy Hats and Higher Xs 

X's in cowboy hats originated from counting the amount of beaver/felt in a hat... the marketing world picked this up for straw, and it's now an indicator of "quality" of a straw cowboy hat. The range is extensive... from the 300X Shangtung Panama "straws," to the 5X hats above.

A good rule of thumb when shopping? If you want a higher quality straw cowboy hat that won't become misshapen when it gets wet, you’ll want something at or above 15X in your straw selection, or you can hop up to palm leaf hats which will also usually be marked with Xs.

Both of these options will keep you looking cool, and you could even grab a 15X+ to dress up on your time away from work. 

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Palm Leaf Cowboy Hats 

Palm leaf hats are usually more expensive, but that's because most are hand-woven from a material that lasts much longer than traditional straw or Bangora hats… plus, you can clean them easily when it’s time to dress up.

Another cool fact about palm leaf? You can shape them yourself with water... dunk them in the horse tank and dry to the brim bend you like.

These palm leaf hats are made of higher grade, hand woven materials (and not usually lacquered to hold their shapes), you can go from the field to the house, scrub up your palm leaf, and take it out the same day...

What's your favorite style out of these cowboy hats? Some people choose "all of those styles" and some are very dedicated to one material, but one thing is sure--there are some rules that never change. Do you know what they are?

Cardinal Rules of Straw Cowboy Hats 

So after you pick your hat, you’ll need a couple etiquette lessons before you’re ready to go out into the wild. Some of you may recognize these rules already… this list is for the people that don’t.

  1. Don’t touch another person’s cowboy hat.
  2. Even if you wear bangora, set your hat down on the crown! Not on the brim. It’ll mess up your shaping.
  3. Don’t throw your hat, or anyone else’s, onto a bed. It’s unwritten, but if you do this, it means your lucks a little sour in regards to staying on your horse for that day.
  4. When you come in, take off your hat, please.
  5. Read this article and learn your history.

Already knew about this list? Then you might find the history of cattle branding in the Northwest really interesting. 

And if you don’t know, now you know… check out our online selection of “straw” hats here… and make the right choice!

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Cutter Streeby has sired two young squires, Ranimyr Heston and Wager Cash. Writing about North 40 Outfitters' employees and customers... who always seem to be doing something remarkable... is his inspiration to try new things. Like fly fishing, like gardening, like wood working, like fencing w/ trellises, like...

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