Hey, newbie western rider! Yeah, you! The one with the misshapen hat that won’t stay on your head. This one’s for you!
Some riders popped out of the womb in their spurs, chinks, and cowboy hats — or so it seems. I am not one of those riders. As someone who joined western equestrian competitions later in life, I am always trying to figure out which western shirt fits best and still functions, how to get chinks that are the correct length, and how to find a hat that fits well and — most importantly — stays on.
If you’re like me, you’ll take all the help you can get. After speaking to some knowledgeable long-time hat-wearers, I’ve compiled a list of helpful hat hacks that will keep your hat on your head and help you look a little more authentic (although, even having to read this list diminishes any authenticity you may manage to achieve in your look).
1. Find a knowledgeable hat shaper. I didn’t realize the importance of this until I spoke to friends about their hats, where they got them, and the shapes they preferred. If you’re investing in a high quality felt hat (and it’s quite the investment), then you should also invest in a quality hat shaper. Doing so will ensure that your hat fits, sits well, and that you’ll look your best.
2. Use a fabric steamer. Apparently, felt hats will lose their shape over time and morph back to either the shape in which they arrived or . . . something else. Although this logically makes sense, it is not something that I had actively considered. If your favorite professional hat shaper is not accessible you can use a fabric steamer to reshape your felt hats. This seems well outside of the realm of skills I possess, but for those brave souls who believe they can accomplish this, go forth and reshape you hat yourself.
3. Help your hat keep its shape. Never rest your hat on a flat surface with the brim side down. Hats have a memory, and if you rest them this way, the brim will get pushed up in places where it makes contact with the counter, dresser, table, floor, or whatever surfaces on which it is placed. Instead, rest your hat with the crown on the bottom. The crown tends to hold its shape better than the brim and can withstand the pressure of “rest.”
4. Make sure your hat is level. This is imperative if you’re wearing your hat while riding at speed or even if a strong wind picks up. If the brim of your hat meets the wind head-on, it’ll likely stay put. However, if it is the slightest bit tilted up or back, the wind will catch the bottom of the brim and grab your hat like a sail.
5. Use bobby pins. An accessible and affordable way to keep your hat on your head is to use bobby pins. By clipping them to your hair and then inserting the into the band of your hat, you may be able to keep your hat in place without anyone knowing your secret. Be warned: this method usually results in a headache by the end of the day (or am I the only one?), so make sure your pins are in exactly the right place.
6. Use weather stripping. Many barrel racers use this hack. Using weather stripping stuck to the hat band will add some volume and cushioning in order to make the hat fit snugly on your noggin.
7. Try toupee tape. One way to really keep your hat on your head is by using toupee tape. Top Stick (less than $7 on Amazon.com) comes in 1″x3″ strips (basically the size of a Band-Aid) and — when applied to the front of your hat band and stuck to a make-up free forehead — will keep your hat securely in place whether you’re running flags, turning cans, or walking around the rodeo.
8. Turn down half of your hat band. If you’re okay with part of your hat band showing — specifically the part with the small bow that lets you know which end of your hat is the back — this may be the hack for you. If you turn down your hat band starting where it hits behind your ears, your hat is more likely to stay in place. This is especially true if your hat shape does not match the shape of your head.
9. A stampede string. This has been my go-to hack, but I have since learned that, in some circles, this is NOT the way to go. I’m not sure why and if you’re like me and fully willing to embrace your n00b status, this can be a viable option. However, like the bobby pins, if not properly placed, the stampede strings result in headaches. Also, if you’re hat doesn’t fit quite right, you still run the risk of looking like this:
What other hat hacks have you discovered? We’re always open to suggestions — as are the inquiring minds of other Horse Nation readers. Leave your hat hacks in the comment section. And, remember, go riding!
Shout out to Katelin Bradley of The Western Thoroughbred for her insight on how to keep your hat — and head! — on straight.