If you're in the market for a Western show hat and are stumped on what to buy, see this handy chart to determine what's what.
|$99 and under|
|Some non-wool furs included at upper end of range; all-wool at lower end. Budget-quality hatband trim. Brim may be wired to hold shape.|
|Entry-level 4-H, local open shows|
|Handle/store with extreme care. Never allow to get wet. Wool felt can't be reshaped with steam.|
|$120-$300; typically rated 5X to 15X|
|Mix of beaver and rabbit fur; higher beaver percentage at higher X ratings|
|Levels up to/including regional breed or discipline-specific shows|
|Hatband trim quality best at 10X and above. Better mid-market hats last several seasons, with care.|
|$350 and up; typically rated 20X and higher|
|Predominantly or all beaver fur; other high-grade furs also used|
|All levels; "the standard" for judges and world-caliber exhibitors|
|Withstands repeated steaming/reshaping. Longest lasting. Can be refurbished to like-new state for approx. $100.|
once you buy your dream hat, make sure you take excellent care of it to increase its longevity. The following hat-care tips will explain how.
Heads Up! Seven Hat Care Tips
1. Handle your hat with clean hands. Skin oils attract and hold grime, and residues from some show-grooming products are difficult, if not impossible, to remove from felt.
2. Always handle your hat by the crown, not the brim. This helps maintain the brim's shape.
3. After placing your felt show hat in its original cardboard box or in a molded-plastic hat carrier, store it in a controlled climate area, such as house or office. Never leave it for long periods in your horse trailer, truck, car trunk, or other place where temperature and humidity fluctuate. Otherwise, your hat may lose its shape.
4. Avoid getting your hat wet. If you do get caught in rain while wearing it, allow it to dry fully (24 to 48 hours), then smooth the felt's nap with a soft brush before replacing the hat in its box or carrier.
5. Dust your hat after each use and before putting it in its storage container. Use a hat brush, a vacuum cleaner with upholstery-brush attachment, or forced air from a compressor.
This hat has been fitted and shaped for this rider
6. If you must store your hat outside box or case, even for a few minutes, set it on its crown--never on its brim, as that would harm its shape.
7. When storing your hat in a hard-sided case, maintain its oval head shape by placing it on the holder with the hat's front pointing left, and the hatband buckle on the latch side rather than the hinge side. Holders are designed to echo head shape, with the left end of the holder corresponding to the front of your head.
The hat details and care tips provided here are excerpted from Juli Thorson's feature "Show Hats, A to Z" in the December '06 issue of Horse & Rider
. (To order a copy of this issue, call 877-717-8928.)
To learn what separates a good hat from a bad one, see Team H&R's Andrea Simons' article "Shape Matters" in the February '09 issue.