That pride goes a long way in the show pen, and for Tish Fappani, a two-time National Reining Horse Association Futurity non-pro champion, a well-shaped hat speaks volumes to the judges.
“I like my felts better when I show,” she says. “When I walk in a show pen and I have a felt hat on, I feel more like I’m there to show. Of course, we’re in Arizona so over the summer at schooling shows, I’ll throw on a straw hat. But if I’m at a major event, I’ll always wear my felts.”
The horsewoman, who is married to reining horse trainer Andrea Fappani, has a handful of hats in her wardrobe, most made and shaped by Shorty’s Caboy Hattery. She coordinates her hats with her outfits, using the colors and style to complement the outfit and her ride.
“I try to take [my show outfit] into consideration,” she explains, adding that she prefers hats without jewels and distracting elements, but does like brims with laser-etched details on the underside.
“I try not to get too gaudy with my hat, but my jackets will be really busy,” she says. “So I try to keep a clean, sharply shaped hat that ties into my chaps.”
Atwood says there are “as many styles of hat as there are hat wearers.”
“I’ve had a couple of people who were not hat wearers and they say, ‘Well, I just want a plain crown shape,’ then we put it on them and they look like a duck out of water,” he says. “We’ll shape and bend on that hat until we get the crown high and just right to fit their posture and stature. Then we’ll get the brim fixed to where it matches their face. Rule of thumb is cheekbone wide, but with the roughstock riders, the fronts of their hat have gotten so wide, about 8 to 9 inches wide.”
Koger says that buckaroo styles, with flat crowns and brims slightly curled up in the back, are popular in the Northwest, like Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. In West Texas, she says, many cowboys prefer 5-inch brims turned high on the sides with a “drip,” or V-shape, in the back.
“Barrel racers like their brims more flat, while Western pleasure, Western riding and halter [exhibitors] like their hats high and tight,” she adds. “Ropers like their hats slightly turned up on the sides.”
Of course these are all recommendations and trends, and nothing is set in stone. Mundee says the bottom line is comfort and confidence. A hat opens the door to the welcoming world of Western culture, and the hardest part may be taking the leap to wear one.
“You don’t have to live on a ranch to wear a hat,” Mundee says. “If you’re the guy on Wall Street and your boots have never touched the dirt but you dream of wide-open spaces, you don’t have to live the Western lifestyle. You just have to love it.”
This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of Western Horseman.