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felt cowboy hat John Stetson made his first cowboy hats using the most basic tools and techniques.  Today the art of making cowboy hats has evolved; the tools are fancier and the techniques more involved, but the result is just as beautiful.

Cowboy hats are made of fur felt, which is a fabric made of short, single, animal-fur fibers.  Fur felt is usually made of rabbit or beaver fur.  These fibers twist together when they are manipulated in hot water and steam.  Because of the way the fibers interlock felt can be made very smooth.  It is also strong, resilient, and water-repellant, making it the perfect material for work out on the range.

brown fur felt hat The first step in making a hat is for the fur to be removed and treated.  The long hairs of the animal are removed and the short underfur is chemically treated so that it will make better felt.  The underfur is then cut from the skin.  Hats are rated according to the type of fur that is used in making them.  This is commonly called the X-factor, and is used in determining price; hats that are graded as 10X, for example, are made of better fur and cost more than hats graded 3X.

Once the felt is ready, there are two main steps in making a hat.  First, the material is repeatedly stretched and moistened until it is shaped into a large, loose cone.  The hood is then shrunk and shaped into the shell, which is then turned into the hat.

Creating the hood is done in a forming machine.  Once the hood is shrunk, it is roughly shaped by wetting it and stretching it over a wooden block.  Using special machines, the crown is blocked and the rim is flanged for the hat to be complete.

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Cowboy Hat Construction - How Cowboy Hats Are Made

construction details are evident in this straw cowboy hat
Young Woman Wearing a Straw Cowboy Hat