Cowboy hats are a symbol of the American West, and there’s no better way to make one your own than by decorating it. Before the days of factory-produced clothes and accessories, all hats were handmade—in essence, by choosing to decorate, you’re acknowledging the origins of the hat. Whether you need a decorated hat to ride in a parade, participate in a pageant or simply show your individuality, there's ample room for creativity.
Sketch out a freehand design to paint by hand onto your hat. You don’t have to be an artist to draw horseshoes, cattle horns, the outline of your home state or even your own cattle brand. Check out photos of existing cattle brands for inspiration; most brands are simple pictographs, the owner’s initials or line drawings. Use a paintbrush and outdoor latex home paint to create your design on the side of your hat.
If the idea of painting freehand makes you nervous, try using a stencil. Craft stores sell stencils in a range of shapes, or you can cut your own out of cardboard. Use masking tape or binder clips to hold the stencil in place on the hat, and cover, with newspaper or a rag, any part of the hat you don’t want painted. You can use outdoor latex paint and a brush, or try outdoor rust-resistant spray paint.
Add a Hatband and Feather
Add a custom hatband and feather to your Western hat for a one-of-a-kind look. Fabric stores have a wide selection of trims from which to choose, from simple grosgrain ribbon to elaborate woven metallic trims. Measure the circumference of the hat and add one-quarter inch. Buy your trim, pin it in place on your hat and either sew or hot-glue it down. If you like, tuck a feather into the hatband before you attach it. You can buy feathers singly or in packages at your local craft store.
Rodeo gals who want to attract attention can coat their hats in eye-catching glitter. You can add a little bit of glitz with a glitter pen—sign your name in cursive, draw stars, hearts or horseshoes. For an all-encompassing look, you’ll need to gather a paper grocery bag, disposable latex gloves, spray adhesive and tubes of craft store glitter. Hold the hat inside the bag, making sure your hands are covered by the gloves. Spray the adhesive onto the hat and sprinkle glitter over it. Repeat until the hat’s surface is covered with glitter.
Jenni Wiltz's fiction has been published in "The Portland Review," "Sacramento News & Review" and "The Copperfield Review." She has a bachelor's degree in English and history from the University of California, Davis and is working on a master's degree in English at Sacramento State. She has worked as a grant coordinator, senior editor and advertising copywriter and has been a professional writer since 2003.