The western or “cowboy hat” is a high-crowned, wide-brimmed hat that makes up the defining piece of attire for North American cowboys. Made famous by western movies, country singers and rodeo circuits all over the country, the western hat’s primary purpose was to protect against wind, sand and rain. Frequently shaped, stretched and resized according to need, modern fur felt cowboy hats can be easily altered with a steady amount of steam from any tea kettle or steam iron. With practice, patience and a careful eye for detail, practically anyone can learn to stretch and shape their own western hats.
Designate an area of your kitchen with ample lighting for the stretching and shaping of your western hat. Keep any kids or animals away from the stove top or counters and ensure the area is clear of any dirt or debris.
Fill the tea kettle completely until the water just reaches the top of the kettle. Place the kettle on the stove top and turn the burner on high.
Pick off any lint, hairs or debris that may be sticking to the hat. Remove any belts, cords or ribbons, as well as any other accessories holding the crown of the hat in place.
Open the steam spout of the tea kettle once the water has been brought to a boil to eliminate the high-pitched whistling sound. Holding your western hat with two hands, one on either brim, immediately position the hat right-side-up into the column of steam coming from the kettle. Allow the entire hat to become saturated with the hot steam.
Hold the hat above the steam as you pull on the edges, stretching the hat from the center. If needed, remove the hat from the column of steam and apply pressure to the crown to help widen the head space of the hat and distribute the felt material. Stretch the hat until it reaches the desired width and shape.
Alter the brim of the hat as desired by fully heating and wetting the felt with the steam and, with one hand, carefully shaping the brim to the desired shape and design. Do this for all portions of the hat brim that you wish to shape.
Remove the kettle from the burner and turn off the stove top. Place the hat in a cool, dry place to dry.
Stubborn vintage western hats made prior to the 1970s may require another treatment. Completely submerge the hat in warm water and place it on top of a youth-sized soccer ball. Widen the head space so that it fits around the ball and let dry for an hour, after which the hat should be successfully stretched.
Practice caution when working around hot steam: If you accidentally burn yourself, immediately flush the area of skin with cold water and apply aloe vera gel as needed.