Here in central Texas, your hat can be more than something to keep your “lil’ ol’ball haid” from getting sunburned. It is, in a way, a sign of your character, how you feel about yourself, what group you claim to be a part of.
For instance, there are people who wear ball caps, or “ gimme” caps. Some wear them backwards, some sideways, some mould the bill like baseball players, while some keep the bill flat, like rappers. I’ve seen old Vietnam era floppy jungle-hat on people mowing lawns, and even Chinese “Coolie umbrellas” on women weeding their flower gardens. Cowboys wear hats that vary from sombreros made of palm fiber to imported fine Shantung straw, to thousand dollar felts from Stetson, Resistol and a host of custom hatters. There are weekend cowboys who will pick up a hat and jam it on their head with no regard for style, or if it fits their face, shoulders, personality or even the season (such as wearing a straw hat in February, for Pete’s sake!).
But then, our cowboy fashionista will spend half an hour over a steaming teakettle shaping his felt and looking in the mirror, to get just the right dip in front, the right swoop up to symmetrical wings of brim, with just the right angle, and a crown crease to make his statement. North Texas and Panhandle cowboys to wear felt, even in the summer. If they’re day working for a neighbor it is pretty “punchy” to have a nice sweat stain around the base of the crown. However, on Sunday morning, or at a “daince” on “sattiddy e’nin’” he wants a pristine “ice cream” felt or a not so dusty black. And woe unto the kid or a girl who accidentally sits on it. Speaking of which, I’d quickly extinguish any desire you might have to touch, pick up, or “God forbid” wear another man’s hat. That would be as much a transgression as riding his horse without his permission. Even though “himself” might use it for fanning a fire or carrying tomatoes to the house. (By the way it’s pretty much a fable to water your horse out of a hat. It’s unlikely the horse will drink out of it and it spoils the shape of the hat.”)
My neighbor, Roy, once walked by the Cattlemen’s Restaurant in Fort Worth at the stock show searching for a friend. He took one look at the hat rack, shook his head and said “He’s not here. I don’t see his hat.” That’s how specifically unique and individual the shape of a rancher’s or cowboy’s hat can be!