Cowboy hats are shaped by the manufacturer through a steam process, and sold in a particular brim and crown design. This is the standard process for both felt and straw hats. Hats are often reshaped at a hat store by the use of a commercial steamer to suit the personal taste of the person purchasing the hat. A cowboy hat can be reshaped at home by using a clothes steamer. A tea pot with a narrow spout that produces an intense flow of steam will also work.
Heat the steamer or tea pot until a strong flow of steam is being produced.
Hold the hat by the edge of the brim with both hands. Pass the outside of the crown through the steam, moving the hat around so the entire crown is steamed. Do this quickly, constantly moving the hat until the entire crown is soft, which should take 20 to 30 seconds.
Shape the crown quickly while the material is warm and soft; the material will cool within 30 seconds. If you want to shape the crown further, repeat the steaming and shaping process until the crown is the desired shape.
Hold the hat on one side of the brim with the fingertips of both hands and pass the bottom side of the brim through the steam. Shift the brim around in your hands quickly to cover the entire brim. Flip the hat over and repeat for the top side of the brim.
Steam both sides of the brim until the material is warm and soft. Quickly shape the brim using both hands; hold the brim in the desired shape for 20 to 30 seconds until the material cools and holds the set. Repeat the process until the desired shape is achieved.
Put the cooled hat on your head while the material is still slightly soft so the hat will shape to your head. The hat will hold its shape after one to two minutes.
Keep the hat constantly moving through the steam. If it's left in one position too long, the areas of the hat outside of the steam will cool. The whole crown or brim must be the same warmth and softness to hold the shape. It's a process that must be done quickly.
The amount of time it takes to get the hat softened by the steam depends on the strength of the steam flow. The stronger the flow, the faster the hat will soften.
Felt hats are made with a fur blend. Better-quality hats use beaver fur; the better the hat, the more beaver fur that was used. Hats of lesser quality use rabbit fur or wool. Straw hats are made with a variety of straw materials. Good-quality straw hats are made with denser straw, lower-quality hats with soft straw. The better the quality of the hat, the better it will hold a shape. Lower-quality hats often won't shape well or lose their shape easily.
Keep your fingers and hands out of the steam. Move your hands to the side of the hat that is not directly in the steam to avoid steam burns. Do not put your face near the steam flow. Do not steam the inside of the crown; the steam can loosen the liner and sweatband.