Apparel Budgeting Tips

Affordable Cowboy Hat Brands for Budget-Conscious Cowboys

black cowboy hat
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Written by Nicky H

Cough Up the Cash—Or Don’t

You can pick up a novelty cowboy hat for less than five dollars, or you can spend as much as $1 million on what’s considered the most expensive cowboy hat of all time. Sadly, a novelty cowboy hat won’t offer much protection against the elements, and one embroidered with Swarovski diamonds is perhaps a little over the top for mucking out stalls…

A good quality cowboy hat can cost as little as $50 or more than $1,500, depending on the material, manufacturing process, and decoration. While you might need gold buckles and diamond decorations to make you feel like a million dollars, a more practical approach is to source a hat that will last a lifetime and cope with whatever the world throws at it (and you).

man standing in front of wall of cowboy hats for sale

Source: Canva

Cowboy Hat Price Influences

X factor

Of all the factors that affect the price of cowboy hats, the X factor is probably the most critical. Traditionally, the X factor reflected the amount of beaver fur used in the construction of a felt cowboy hat. A hat with a 10X rating would be made from pure beaver fur, while a 1X-rated hat would only contain a small amount in a wool blend.

Although the X factor still indicates the quality of a cowboy hat, the rating system has evolved to incorporate a wider range of pelts and qualities.

Entry-level hats usually have a 4X rating and contain little, if any, beaver fur, while a 20X hat will usually be a 50/50 blend of beaver and hare.

You can also opt for higher-rated hats, like Stetson’s 1000X Diamante Premium Cowboy Hat, which is made from a blend of beaver and chinchilla fur.

Every cowboy hat manufacturer has its own X rating system, so you can’t necessarily expect a 7X hat from Justin to be of the same quality as a 7X hat from Resistol.

Brand

The best cowboy hat brands have established themselves as reliable and recognizable manufacturers with hundreds of years of experience and craftsmanship.

Brands like Stetson and Resistol tend to carry a higher price tag than lesser-known brands, while those dedicated to creating unique, customized products command an even steeper price.

Supply and Demand

Even big-name brands only produce a small number of hats each year simply because the manufacturing process is so complex. Most high-quality cowboy hats are handcrafted, so they take a lot longer to make than mass-produced hats.

The process is time-consuming, often taking several days, and requires employees with a high level of skill and experience, making the finished products more expensive.

woman wearing straw hat

Source: Canva

Material

If you want a good-quality cowboy hat that doesn’t break the bank, straw is by far the best option. It won’t provide the protection and versatility you get from a felt cowboy hat, but it will protect you against the sun and wind and require less maintenance.

Other more affordable materials include palm leaf, oilskin, and leather, although none can compete with the longevity, durability, and comfort of the traditional felt cowboy hat.

Pelts from beavers and exotic animals like chinchilla and mink are expensive and difficult to source, inflating the prices of any products made from these materials.

At the end of the day, you get what you pay for, and if you want a cowboy hat that holds its shape and holds its own on the open plain, you need a minimum of a 7X rated felt hat.

Size

Sadly, if you need a larger hat, you’ll probably have to pay more simply because more material went into its creation.

Be sure to note that hat sizing can vary among different manufacturers, so be sure to pay close attention to size charts and return/exchange policies!

Style

Some of the more popular styles of cowboy hats demand a higher price tag simply because they carry the weight of tradition and authenticity.

A classic Stetson with a cattleman crease and wide brim will often cost more than a less popular design, like a teardrop crease with a narrow brim.

man riding horse swinging rope

Source: Canva

Type of Hat (Straw vs. Felt vs. Leather)

While you can get some top-quality straw cowboy hats, they won’t keep your head warm in winter or double-up as an emergency water bucket for your horse. Designed for summer months, the best straw cowboy hats protect you from the sun while keeping your head cool.

Leather hats are a bit more versatile but are not particularly airy, so a leather hat could get uncomfortably hot in summer. They are more adept at protecting you from the elements, however, and tend to carry a lower price tag than felt or wool blend cowboy hats.
100% fur-felt cowboy hats hold their shape and protect you against all the elements, from blazing sun to freezing snow. They have a shinier finish than wool-felt hats and provide better protection from the rain.

These premium-quality hats are designed to withstand the rigors of the Western lifestyle and will often outlive their owners!

Hat Quality

The quality of a cowboy hat is dependent on two main factors—the material and the manufacturing process.

How to Tell if a Hat is Good Quality

A good-quality straw hat will have a wide brim, close weave, and lacquered finish. They will usually be handcrafted to create a tighter weave and better venting for improved airflow.

It can be a lot more challenging to distinguish between a premium felt cowboy hat and an average wool blend. Experts may be able to tell the difference at a glance, but for most of us, it comes down to the appearance and feel of the final product.

A high-quality fur-felt cowboy hat will have a shinier appearance than a wool blend and a soft, almost satiny finish. Premium-quality hats will also hold their shape better and last many years, if not an entire lifetime.

Hat Pricing Tiers

Entry Level Cowboy Hats

While you can pick up an entry-level straw cowboy hat for under $50, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any felt or wool cowboy hat in that price range. Even an affordable felt fur hat of average quality (6X) will set you back around $300, and a cheaper wool alternative between $60 and $120. Spending less than $100 on a felt cowboy hat is a bit of a waste, as it won’t be of a high enough quality to stand the test of time.

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Mid-Range Cowboy Hats

Felt cowboy hats start at around $300 and usually carry an X rating of between 7X and 10X. They’ll easily stand the test of time and could last for years, but probably not a lifetime. If you want a mid-range hat with a softer finish, bound edge, and higher quality buckle set, you might want to increase your budget to around $500.

Mid-range straw hats will have a tighter weave and wider brim than their entry-level counterparts and will, therefore, be more durable and hold their shape for longer. As a result, they carry a slightly higher price tag, usually in the $90 to $150 range.

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Premium Cowboy Hats

Premium quality straw hats from a reputable brand like Stetson can set you back $300 or more, but in exchange, you’ll get a durable, lightweight hat with a satin lining and wide brim.

Premium felt cowboy hats start at around $500 for a 20X-rated item that’s guaranteed to last a lifetime. You can, of course, get even higher X-rated products. Resistol has a range of 40X hats whose prices range from around $600 to well over $1,000.

Although some brands manufacture hats with ratings as high as 200X, the average person will be hard-pressed to see the difference in quality.

It will be hand-shaped to meet your individual preferences and to ensure a perfect fit, but to the average observer, it won’t look any different from a customized 20X.

Premium Pick
02/18/2024 06:55 am GMT
silhouette of man wearing cowboy hat at sunset

Source: Canva

Cowboy Hat Brands

Everyone’s heard of brands like Stetson and Resistol, but they’re not the only ones crafting high-quality cowboy hats. Many smaller brands, like Brixton and Shorty’s Caboy Hattery, are sourcing their own materials and creating stylish cowboy hats that are both timeless and contemporary.

Most Affordable Brands Mid-Level Priced Brands Premium-Priced Brands
Cavender’s Stetson Shorty’s Caboy Hattery
Bullhide Resistol Greeley Hat Works
Brixton Rodeo King Master Hatters of Texas

 Customized Cowboy Hats

While a traditional Stetson with its distinctive cattleman crease and wide brim will suit almost everyone and last a lifetime, there’s something to be said for having a customized cowboy hat that tells your unique story.

Manufacturers like Greeley Hat Works and Shorty’s Caboy Hattery will let you select every detail, from the color to the material, accents, and buckle design.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much do good quality cowboy hats cost?

Depending on your preferred material, a good-quality cowboy hat can cost as little as $60 for a straw hat to around $150 to $200 for an entry-level felt hat.

Q: What is the most popular cowboy hat?

The classic Stetson Skyline with its cattleman crease and 4” brim remains one of the most popular designs.

Q: What cowboy hat do most cowboys wear?

Most cowboys wear durable felt cowboy hats that are rugged and fit for purpose. Stetson and Resistol produce some of the most popular hats for cowboys.

Q: Who are Stetson’s competitors?

Resistol is one of Stetson’s bigger competitors, alongside the American Hat Company and Greeley Hat Works.

Q: How do you know if a cowboy hat is expensive?

You should expect to pay more for a cowboy hat with a higher X rating. Brand, size, style, and materials also contribute to the price.

Q: Why are good cowboy hats so expensive?

Cowboy hats aren’t so much manufactured as crafted. The production process is long and requires a high level of skill and training. Add to that the cost of materials, many of which are sourced from exotic animals, and you start to understand why cowboy hats are so expensive.

Q: What is considered a real cowboy hat?

The classic Stetson is considered a real cowboy hat, but really, any cowboy hat made to withstand the elements and protect the wearer could be classified as a real cowboy hat.

Q: What are high-quality cowboy hats made of?

High-quality cowboy hats are made from the pelts of animals, with premium products often using the highly sought-after fur from the belly of the beaver, the luxuriantly soft fur of the chinchilla, or a blend of the two.

Parting Thoughts

While you don’t need to rob a bank to afford a good cowboy hat, it is worth saving up and investing in something of quality. A high-quality felt cowboy hat from a reputable brand will fit comfortably, provide superior protection against the elements, and last a lifetime.

If you’re desperate to add a little Western flair to your wardrobe but don’t have the budget for a felt cowboy hat, opt for a tightly woven straw hat instead. It’ll last a good few years and make you look as cool as you feel.

If you can afford better, however, nothing can beat a customized felt cowboy hat made from 20X fur felt (or higher), finished with a luxurious satin lining and eye-catching buckle.

When you buy a cowboy hat, you’re not just purchasing a piece of headwear—you’re investing in a symbol of your individuality, a nod to tradition, and a shield from the sun and rain. Isn’t that worth a higher price tag?

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About the author

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Nicky H