How to Stretch a Cowboy Hat (Without Ruining It!)
Cowboy hats can be both comfortable and stylish, but only if the fit is just right. If you find your new hat isn’t quite hitting the mark, there are several (easy) ways to stretch it out.
Cowboy hats should be snug but not tight. Measure your head and double-check the hat brand’s available size chart to ensure a proper fit.
While you can’t do much to adjust a hat that’s too big, you can stretch a hat that’s too small. Spraying and stretching or steaming and shaping are two common ways to adjust your hat’s fit.
In a pinch, you can even use a small soccer ball or even just your hands!
If the hat is a bit too big, it might be snugged-up with an insert slipped inside the hat band.
Hat Fitting Basics
Cowboy hats should be snug, not tight, and sit at the middle of your forehead.
Hat Sizing 101
Cowboy hats come in a range of sizes, from traditional S, M, L, and XL sizes, as well as numbers (like 6 3/8). Always measure your head and refer to the hat’s sizing chart for the best possible fit.
Unfortunately, sizing can vary from brand to brand and even within different hat lines of the same brand.
Shape: Crowns & Creases
The crown is the top part of the hat, and the crease is how the crown is shaped. There are several traditional styles depending on your chosen riding discipline.
Warning: Cowboy hats do NOT provide protection in a fall. Wear a helmet when you ride—every time!
Common Crown Shapes:
- Cattleman Crease
- Brick Crease
- The Dakota
- Boss of the Plains
There are a variety of ways to shape the brim of the hat as well.
Brim Shape Examples:
- Reiner Low Sides
- Bull Rider
- Quarter Horse / Show Crease
Sizing: Too Big
If the hat touches your ears or eyebrows, it’s probably too big (the same goes for if it falls off easily when you walk or when a gust of wind hits you). Short of slipping in a bit of padding in the hat band, there is little that can fix this problem.
Sizing: Too Small
If the hat pinches your forehead or gives you a headache, it’s too small.
Snug is good, but tight is bad.
How to Stretch a Cowboy Hat
There are lots of different ways to stretch a cowboy hat.
Spray, Stretch, Steam, & Shape
One method is the Spray and Stretch.
Spritz the crown, inside and out, then dry with a blow dryer until the hat is nearly dry. Place the hat on your head and let it air dry.
Another option is to use steam. Boil water in a kettle. Once it’s steaming, hold the hat over the steam for about a minute (right over the inside of the band).
Let the hat sit for 30 minutes—don’t put it on your head when hot! Repeat 4-5 times, then dry the hat with a blow dryer.
While the hat is still damp (not hot), put it on and let it air dry.
Hat Stretching Tools
Some popular hat stretching tools include a hat stretcher (a wooden, adjustable tool), a small soccer ball, and your hands!
Best Cowboy Hat Stretcher
We recommend trying the HAT MATE Premium Hat Stretcher.
Hat Stretching Hacks
If your hat is snug, you may want to leave it alone and just wear it. Cowboy hats will stretch over time and conform to the shape of your head.
If the fit is uncomfortable and you need a quick fix, you can always place the hat on your knees and use your hands.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you stretch a cowboy hat without a hat stretcher?
My favorite way is to place the hat on a small soccer ball.
Q: How do you stretch a hat that’s too small?
Steaming is a great choice because it loosens the too-tight fibers.
Q: How can I stretch my fitted hat at home?
Using your hands is the simplest method. Just place them at opposite ends of the crown and stretch for 5-7 seconds at a time.
Q: How do you break in a tight cowboy hat?
If the hat is truly tight, and not snug, you may have the wrong size. Otherwise, using a bit of steam can help.
The perfect fit is easy to achieve once you find the right stretching method.
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- Cowboy Hats: Creases, Crowns, Shapes & Styles
- Unwritten Rules: Cowboy Hat Customs
- 21 Best Brands of Totally Kick@ss Cowboy Hats
- Best Boots for Western Horseback Riding
- Cowboy Hat Colors & Etiquette for Beginners
- 12 Best Cowboy Boot Brands You Won’t Regret
- Cowboy at Heart? Look the Part! Cowboy Hat Materials