How to wear a cowboy hat


By Len Wilcox
One of my favorite writers published a piece that told the rules for wearing a cowboy hat. That writer is Bob Boze Bell, an Arizona cowboy who is also the publisher of “True West Magazine.”

Now, I like wearing a cowboy hat; not only is there nothing better for shading your head and neck, it’s a statement about who I am and where I come from. I think Bell agrees with that, and I appreciate that he took the time to write down these rules.

He says that the first rule is that it is not okay to touch a cowboy hat that isn’t yours. Of course, we all know that from a popular country western song, but it bears repeating; it just isn’t done. Except by grandkids; they are exempt from this rule, when it comes to grandpa’s hat.

Bell says that Hat Rule #2 is iron-clad. Do not wear your cowboy hat in mama’s house. Actually, in any mama’s house. Mothers are sacred. The only exception here is, former mother-in-laws, providing she is the one who never thought you were good enough to marry her daughter.

Hat Rule #3: Tip your hat like you mean it. Don’t just flick the brim – remove it from your noggin so there is no confusion, you’re acknowledging someone. But don’t be waving it around like some hillbilly shouting for help.

Hat Rule #4: Wearing hats indoors is complicated. Like Bell, I grew up in cattle country, and I was taught to tip your hat to a lady. And you take it off in a church or home, and when seated in a restaurant or theater. In a public building, you can keep it on.

Hat Rule #5: On the dance floor. In the old days, cowboys wore their hats and never took them off. But, so many fights broke out when hats got bumped during dances that now you take your hat off while dancing.

Hat Rule # 6: Most of the hat rules cowboys adhere to are not applicable to a cowgirl.

Hat Rule #7: Hats come off in church, except at “Cowboy Church,” where hats are worn, but they must be off for the Lord’s Prayer.

I hope that clarifies the proper etiquette for wearing a cowboy hat. Thank you, Bob Boze Bell of “True West Magazine,” for your words of wisdom.

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Terry preece

If you cant dance with your hat on for a good two-step ,you need to learn how but anytime your polishing your buckle the hat comes off

Loren Rademacher

My hat stays on until I decide to take it off. Period. Church; restaurant; home; I see no intrinsic reason to doff the hat.


Sounds fine except the restaurant part. Exactly where would one be expected to place the hat to be safe from spills or damage?

Len Wilcox

Sometimes I put mine on an empty chair, on top of my wife’s purse. It only comes off if she’s around, as she enforces the no-hat-with-meals rule with a vengeance.


Although i wear cowboy hats/Stetsons, and have always comported myself as described, I’ve never really thought about the “official” rules. Removing your hat is a sign of respect, which is why I keep it firmly mounted while dealing with local government… 🙂

RV Staff

Ummmmm … —Diane at

Len Wilcox

You are a wise man, Nr. Wolfe.

Loren Rademacher

How is removing a hat a sign of respect? And what respectful thing would you do if you had no hat?

Ardy Mattox

i think it is neat that you mentioned that no one should touch someone else’s hat! Especially mine!

Eric Eltinge

Take hat off inside military bulding and for national anthem.

Len Wilcox



I tip my hat to you for sharing that information.

Len Wilcox

Right back at you, thanks! 😉


I do not recognize Len Wilcox as an authority on Western head ware! The hat pictured appears to be that of an urban cow-poser. ?

Tommy Molnar

Or a Crocodile Dundee hat . . .


I’ve seen worse… how bout a decent enough leather hat, then polished until it shined like boots?

Len Wilcox

Hmph! That’s my favorite hat! And I don’t have any cows to pose. 😉


It is a cool hat… I’m envious.

Now, if it had sequins and a dramatic fringed veil, I might object… 😀