A History of Cowboy Hat Styles: From Stampede Strings to Gambler Crowns

A History of Cowboy Hat Styles From Stampede Strings to Gambler Crowns

The cowboy hat is one of the most iconic and recognizable pieces of American Western wear. Its origins can be traced back to the 19th century, when cowboys began to adopt it as their standard headgear. Since then, the cowboy hat has undergone a number of style changes, from the wide-brimmed Stetsons of the Old West to the more narrow-brimmed gambler crowns of the early 20th century.

Here is a brief history of the 12 most popular cowboy hat styles over the years.

1. Stampede Strings:

The stampede string was originally designed to prevent a cowboy’s hat from blowing off in high winds. It is a thin strip of leather or rawhide that runs around the circumference of the crown and ties in a knot under the chin. These strings were typically decorated with colorful beads, silver Conchos or even coins hung from a leather thong.

2. Gambler Crowns:

Gambler crowns are the narrow-brimmed cousins of Stetsons and became very popular in the early 20th century. The brims of these hats measured just two to three inches wide, making them perfect for indoor wear or ducking into shady saloons. They were also popular with gamblers who wanted to obscure their eyes while playing cards.

3. Latigo Leather:

Latigo leather was a type of heavy, waterproofed cowhide that was often used to make cowboy hats. It was durable, water-resistant and could be dyed in several shades of brown. This type of leather gained popularity during the late 19th century and is still used to make some cowboy hat shapes today.

4. Cattleman Crowns:

Cattleman crowns are a combination of Stetson and gambler crowns with a slightly wider brim (typically 3″ or 4″) that is often turned up at the sides like a Stetson. They were popular amongst ranchers and other outdoor workers who needed both protections from the sun as well as good ventilation.

5. Sombreros:

Sombreros are the traditional Mexican cowboy hats, usually made from straw or felt with brims measuring up to six inches wide. They have become a popular style for American cowboys and are often adorned with colorful decorations such as ribbons, feathers or Conchos.

6. Crushable Hats:

Crushable hats are exactly what they sound like – hats that can be crushed down into a smaller size yet rebound back to their original shape when worn. This type of hat became very popular in the 20th century due to its convenience and portability; it was perfect for packing into luggage while traveling or storing away during the off-season.

7. Western Flair:

Western flair hats feature decorative accents such as silver buckle sets, leather bands or feather trims which give them an extra touch of personality. These hats are typically worn for special occasions or as part of a cowboy-themed costume.

8. Buckaroo Hats:

Buckaroo hats are a type of wide-brimmed cowboy hat that is often decorated with stampede strings, chin straps or other embellishments. They were traditionally worn by rodeo riders and cowboys who worked on the range.

9. Baseball Caps:

Baseball caps are a more recent addition to the world of cowboy hats. They became popular in the 1980s and 1990s as a more casual alternative to traditional straw or felt hats. Baseball caps are usually made from cotton or denim and feature a brim that helps protect the wearer’s eyes from the sun.

10. Ten-Gallon Hats:

Ten-gallon hats are the tallest of all cowboy hats, with brims that measure up to four inches wide and a tall crown that can reach heights of eight or nine inches. They were traditionally worn by ranchers as protection from both sun and rain.

11. Prairie Bands:

Prairie bands are a type of hat band found on some western style hats. These bands typically feature intricate patterns in leather or metal and often have Conchos or other adornments attached to them.

12. Leather Hat Bands:

Leather hat bands are another type of accessory found on cowboy hats, usually made from tooled silver or gold-plated leather and featuring decorative elements such as Conchos, beads or feathers.


Cowboy hats are an important part of the American and Western cultures. They can range from simple straw styles to elaborately decorated leather hats with Conchos, feather trims or silver buckle sets. No matter what style you choose, wearing a cowboy hat is sure to make a statement!

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