Why do cowboy hats have curved sides?

The hat tends to be the chief defining piece of attire of the archetypal cowboy image. The round, curved brim and at times, a pinched crown has made the cowboy hat the most recognized piece of Western wear. However, one cannot help but wonder why is a cowboy hat curved up on the sides?

Here are some of the reasons:

  • The most popular theory that we have all heard from an early age is that, the cowboys started curling up their hats brims after the invention of the pickup truck. It is believed that, with the brims of their hats folded up on the sides, 3 cowboys could comfortably sit in the front cab without their hats striking each other’s and causing discomfort.
  • Another popular belief is that, over the years the cowboy hat underwent changes in its shape to better suit the needs of the wearer and took the form that we are familiar with today. Hat owners, started to curve up brims of their hats on the sides so that their hat stay out of the way of the rope and not get knocked off by it, when herding the cattle.
  • It is also believed that in olden days, the hats were more of a tool than an accessory for a cowboy. A hat’s prime function was protection. Besides the main purpose of protecting the head from heat and cold, the hat’s wide brims acted as sun visors for the cowboys in a time when there were no sun glasses. The curled up wide brims also served as a mechanism to catch the rain while working in rain and storms, and flow it all the way back away from the cowboys face and throw it behind them without getting soaked. When herding the cattle, the hat along with the face coverings provided some protection to the eyes from dust.

  • Another likely reason for turned up side brims is that early on, the two renowned cowboys turned performers ‘Buffalo Bill’ and ‘Texas Jack’ wore unaltered hats, but over time they both started to alter the crowns and brims to allow onlookers to catch a glimpse of their faces while they were performing. This could take the form we associate with cowboy hats today, with upturns on both sides, or more exaggerated curves depending on the need. In later pictures, however, they are often seen with overly upturned brims from the front for the sake of taking a good picture that didn’t hide their famous faces.
  • The most commonly accepted reason, however, for the curved brims off a cowboy hat is that over time and with heavy use as the hat was picked up and down or when put on and off, the shape of the crown and brim were changed by the hands of the wearer. If a hat owner grabbed the hat from the side every time he took it on or off, the side brim became creased. Likewise, If the man tipped his hat in the front, the brim slightly turns downwards over time.


Although, the theories mentioned above may or may not seem a plausible reason for curled up sides on a cowboy hat, one thing is for sure that everything the cowboys wore back in the day had a functional purpose to aid them during long hours and tough conditions of their job. Today the cowboy hat, even though a reminiscent of its historic counterpart has become as much a part of fashion as it is function. Worn by cowboys, cowgirls, rodeo athletes, musicians and movie stars alike, the cowboy hat has become an attire piece that truly represents the traditional American West.


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