Cowboy Hat Etiquette
The first Rule that is
indisputable and critical, is DO NOT mess with a cowboy's hat. I knew
someone who, in a Texas bar, heard a man ask his cowboy friend "Can I try
your hat on?". The man just looked at him and said, "You wouldn't want
me askin' to try on your underwear would you? So don't ask to try on
my hat." A cowboy hat is a very personal, and sometimes very
expensive, item that you don't pass around. In some places, to
touch a man's hat without permission will get you pile-driven into the wall,
you just don't do it.
There are two degrees of
- With your hat-lifting or
tipping it, which you do for strangers.
- Taking it off, which you
do for friends.
Tipping your hat
is done by barely lifting it off your head:
By the crown of a soft
hat, or the brim of a stiff one.
Your cigarette, pipe or
cigar should always be taken out of your mouth before removing
or tipping your hat.
2. Taking it off
A. A man takes off his
- When he is being
introduced, or saying good-bye;
- as a greeting when
passing someone he knows on the street;
- when talking,
particularly with a woman, an older man, or a clergyman;
- when the National
Anthem is being played, or the flag is passing;
- at a burial, or
(except in large cities) in the presence of a funeral
B. A man tips his hat:
- when walking with a
friend who passes a woman only the friend knows;
- any time a lady who
is a stranger thanks you for some service;
- any time you excuse
yourself to a woman stranger, as in a crowded bus when you
jostle her, or when you have to ask to crowd past;
- any time a stranger
shows courtesy to a woman you are with, as when. a man or
woman picks up something she has dropped, or a man gives her
- when you ask a woman
(or elderly man) for directions.
C. Indoors, a man
always takes off his hat, except:
- in public buildings,
such as railroad stations or post offices;
- in entrance halls
and corridors of office buildings or hotels;
- in elevators of
public or office buildings. (You have to use your judgment
about this, though. In a department store elevator full of
women you might take it off. Also, if a woman you know gets
into an office building elevator, you would probably take it
off, and you certainly would do so if you started talking to
Hat Rule #1: Do not touch my hat
Let’s get this straight: a
cowboy hat is not a toy. It is not okay to touch a
cowboy’s hat, or put on a stray cowboy hat lying around
a bunkhouse or a truck stop. It is not okay to grab it
off a cowboy’s head, and it is absolutely forbidden to
say, as you reach out, “Gee, what’s that made of?”
Exception: A fiancé may touch a
cowboy’s hat once—on the honeymoon—but that’s it. Also,
a grandchild may do whatever they want to a cowboy hat,
short of sleeping in it. It is, after all, just a hat. I
know that doesn’t seem fair, but that’s just the deal.
Hat Rule #2: Do not wear your cowboy
hat in mama’s house
There is no more disrespectful
thing you can do, short of killing the family dog, than
wearing your cowboy hat inside your mama’s house. This
includes your friend’s mama’s house, as well. This even
includes mamas from other nations. Moms are sacred and
every cowboy knows it. Don’t do it.
Exception: You may wear your cowboy hat when you are
forced to enter the house of your ex-wife’s mother. You
know, the one who never thought you were good enough to
marry her daughter. If you do, though, you must be
prepared to fight your ex-wife, her mother and whoever
is sleeping with the two sluts at the time of the entry.
That’s a hard trade off, but it’s usually worth it.
Hat Rule #3: Tip your hat like you
Don’t just flick the brim,
remove it from your noggin so there is no confusion when
you’re acknowledging a crowd in a parade or just a
pretty girl on the boardwalk. But don’t be waving it
around like some hillbilly shouting for help.
Doing The Half-Tip
When the National Anthem is playing, cowboys will often
do a “half-tip” of the hat
Hat Rule #4: Wearing Hats Indoors is
Many cowboys have been in the
armed services where it was drilled in to them to take
off their lid when they are indoors. This wasn’t true in
the Old West where you see cowboys wearing hats in
saloons and dining halls, but today is a different deal.
When in doubt—doff it.
Exception: In some parts of the
country, if you enter a restaurant, it’s okay to wear
your hat at the counter, but not in a booth. This can be
dicey if you see someone you know at a table when you
are sitting at the counter, with your hat on. If you
approach your friend at the table you can say hi and
keep your hat on, but if you sit down, the hat must come
off. This is known as the “heading-towards-the-door”
rule. It is perfectly acceptable to wear your hat, as
you cross the dining room towards the door, but do not
dilly dally, or the hat must come off.
Exception to the Exception: While everyone agrees the
hat comes off in church, it is okay to wear your hat in
Cowboy Church, but then it comes off for the Lord’s
Hat Rule #5: The Dance Floor Dilemma
In the old days, cowboys wore
their hats to dances and never took them off, especially
while struttin’ around the dance floor. But, so many
fights broke out when hats got bumped during dances that
there are still places—mostly in Texas—where there is a
hard and fast rule that you must take your hat off while
Exception: When a cowboy and a
cowgirl are both wearing hats and it’s time for a
grinder, it is considered appropriate to leave both hats
with a baby-sitter back at the booth.
Hat Rule #6: Cowgirls Can Get Away
Most of the hat rules cowboys
adhere to are not applicable to a pretty cowgirl.
There is no exception to this sexist and ridiculous
Hat Rule #7: No Hats in Church,
While almost everyone agrees
that it’s mandatory that hats come off in church, there
is an exception as it relates to a new phenomenon called
“Cowboy Church.” In this fast growing church, cowboys
are allowed to wear their hats at an indoor service, but
they must take it off for the Lord’s Prayer.
Hat Rule #8: Beware of Hat Rules.
If a cowboy insists on you
adhering to these hat rules, try and keep a wide berth.
Who needs all these damn rules anyhow?