Cowboy Up! Does Cowboy Hat Shrink Over Time? – Kye Fashion

Have you ever seen your favorite cowboy hat shrink before your eyes like a rattlesnake in a desert drought?

In the movies, all it takes is one rainstorm and suddenly those wide brims are shriveled up tighter than a tick on a hound dog.

But is this iconic Western wardrobe malfunction just Hollywood hogwash or do cowboy hats shrink overtime in the wild world?

Read on for some rootin’ tootin’ answers, buckaroos!

Does Your Cowboy Hat Actually Shrink Like in the Movies?

Well butter my backside and call me a biscuit – those movie cowboy hats really do shrink!

Turns out certain types of cowboy hats are more delicate than a prairie rose when it comes to moisture.

Hats made from materials like felt or straw are prone to getting their feathers ruffled and shrinking up to two sizes when exposed to sweat or rain.

Meanwhile, that handsome hat made of leather hides ain’t likely to budge. Just like your favorite pair of cowhide chaps, leather hats keep their shape in rain or shine.

So while cowboy hat shrinkage is surely no tall tale, not all hats shrivel up equally when wet.

Heat and Sweat: The Cowboy Hat Shrinking Culprits

What causes this wild and wooly hat shrinkage? The rootin’ tootin’ culprits are heat and moisture.

They tighten up the fibers in fragile felt and straw until your hat’s gripped tighter than a new saddle cinch. One sweaty hay ride under the hot sun can leave your hat’s browband cinched up real tight.

And when the raindrops keep falling on your hat, the results can leave your Stetson more crushed than a cowpoke after a stampede.

To Shrink or Not to Shrink? The Materials Tell All

When it comes to potential shrinkage, your hat’s unique materials tell all.

Synthetic fabrics like polyester won’t shrink one bit, while a straw hat may tighten up in cold weather but not in rain or heat.

And while rain may shrivel up a felt hat forever, a fine leather or fur-felt Stetson springs back into shape once dry.

So know your hat’s special qualities to prevent a disappointing surprise!

DIY Cowboy Hat Shrinking and Stretching 101

Many shrunken cowboy hats can be revived using some good old-fashioned steam power.

Simply place your dampened hat over a rounded stretching form and gently pull the crown and brim as steam works its magic.

Let your stretched out hat set and dry in this expanded size to “train” the shape to stay put. It’s like breaking a wild bronco, but for hats!

Just be careful not to overstretch your hat more than the material allows or you’ll end up with a ten-gallon hat that fits a twenty-gallon head.

Dos and Don’ts: Avoiding the Cowboy Hat Shrink

Follow these simple dos and don’ts to keep your cowboy hat from shrinking out on the trail:


  • Store felt and straw hats in dry, climate controlled conditions
  • Allow leather and straw hats to fully air dry after sweating
  • Wear rainproof hat covers to protect from showers


  • Get natural fiber hats wet in rain or cold weather
  • Let sweaty hats sit unmended for long periods
  • Overstretch hats past what the materials allow

Knowing Your Hat’s Limitations: Don’t Overstretch!

While you can sometimes revive a shrunken cowboy hat through stretching, there are limits.

If you overstretch a hat beyond what the material fibers can handle, you risk damaging it permanently.

And certain hats like high-quality beaver-felt Stetsons may only shrink once before losing their ability to bounce back.

So know your hat’s limitations and treat it accordingly so your hat lasts a lifetime rather than one rain shower.


While hat shrinkage is no Hollywood hogwash, understanding your hat’s unique traits is key to keeping it in top shape for seasons to come.

With proper care your cowboy hat should withstand the elements and fit like a second skin.

So keep your hat dry, steam it as needed, and you’ll be stylin’ for miles to come. Happy trails, partners!