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.


Hat Ritual

There are two degrees of politeness:

  1. With your hat-lifting or tipping it, which you do for strangers.
  2. Taking it off, which you do for friends.


1. 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 hat outdoors:

  1. When he is being introduced, or saying good-bye;
  2. as a greeting when passing someone he knows on the street;
  3. when talking, particularly with a woman, an older man, or a clergyman;
  4. when the National Anthem is being played, or the flag is passing;
  5. at a burial, or (except in large cities) in the presence of a funeral procession.

B. A man tips his hat:

  1. when walking with a friend who passes a woman only the friend knows;
  2. any time a lady who is a stranger thanks you for some service;
  3. 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;
  4. 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 his seat;
  5. when you ask a woman (or elderly man) for directions.

C. Indoors, a man always takes off his hat, except:

  1. in public buildings, such as railroad stations or post offices;
  2. in entrance halls and corridors of office buildings or hotels;
  3. 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 her.)


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 mean it

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 complicated

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 Prayer.


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 dancing.

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 With Murder

Most of the hat rules cowboys adhere to are not applicable to a pretty cowgirl.

Exception:   Ha! There is no exception to this sexist and ridiculous rule.


Hat Rule #7: No Hats in Church, Except…

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?






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Most recent revision September 24, 2022 03:00:49 PM

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