When I write, I do a lot of research on the people, places and things that appear in my books. Since I write contemporary romance, I try and make the people and scenes as believable as possible. I hate it when I’m reading a book, chugging right along and I hit that spot that stops the flow because I’m thinking, ‘that’s not how it works,’ ‘he or she wouldn’t do that’ or ‘I’ve been to that place but I doubt the author has.’
For my last book, “My Rodeo Man,” one of the things I needed to learn about was cowboy hat etiquette. The first question I wanted to answer was, would a man keep his hat on or take it off when he was out dancing with his lady since that was one of the first scenes in the book? From there my questions circled around to when does a cowboy keep his hat on and when does etiquette dictate that he – or she – remove it?
Here’s what I learned – almost all the rules have exceptions.
Rule 1 – Don’t touch another cowboy’s hat. The Cowboy Hat Guide put it this way, “You wouldn't want me askin' to try on your underwear would you? So don't ask to try on my hat.” Exception – If a lady grabs your hat and puts it on her head, smile like the gentleman you are and let her wear it. You can also try for a kiss for letting her have her way with your hat. It's also fine if your hat blows off and another man picks it up and hands it back to you.
Rule 2 – Don’t wear it backwards. There’s a little bow inside the hat’s sweatband and that bow goes at the back of the head – like the label goes at the back of your shirt.
Rule 3 – Your hat is always removed during a prayer or when the national anthem is played. Exception – If you are a lady and your hat is secured by hat pens, then you can leave it on otherwise, remove it just like the guys.
Rule 4 – Remove your hat when introduced to a lady – although it seems to be just fine to tip your hat to a lady if you already know her. Naturally there is more than one way to tip your hat – According to The Star Gazer Mercantile there is, “the Brim Tip and the Forward Tip methods. To properly conduct the Brim Tip method, grasp the brim of the hat between your thumb and two fingers and raise the brim, ever so slightly. The Forward Tip method means that you grasp the front of the hat crown, lift slightly and tilt the brim forward. Of course, both methods should include the obligatory head nod. Otherwise, you might look like you’ve just got an itchy scalp!”
Rule 5 – Never tip your hat to another man. According to The North Texas Reporter in the Old West, “It was akin to calling them a woman.”
Rule 6 – Always take your hat off when you enter a building but you can put it back on in commercial and public buildings. Exception – take it off in a movie theater, concert or at a sporting event if it interferes with someone sitting behind you. (This meant Zach could leave his hat on in the dance hall. I also checked out a bunch of pictures just to confirm that’s what people did and that was a mixed bag.)
Rule 7 – Always remove your hat when you sit down for a meal. Exception – If you are sitting at the counter of a diner, you can leave it on. You can also leave it on at a restaurant if there is no safe place to set it down. Nothing worse than someone spilling food on your hat.
Rule 8 – When you take your hat off, always set it on its crown, never on its brim or hang it on a hat stand or peg. The logic is that the brim is softer and the hat will lose its shape if you set it down on its brim.
Rule 9 – Felt hats are for the time between Labor Day and Memorial Day and straw hats are for the summer months. Exception – If it’s hot in October, put on the straw hat. If you’re going to a formal event in August, drag out that felt hat.
If you want to learn more about Cowboy Hats – from proper fit, to superstitions, to styles to etiquette, check out these articles.