What Does a Feather in a Cowboy Hat Mean? What You Need to Know.

Have you ever noticed a feather sticking out of a cowboy hat and wondered, “what does that mean?”. Well, pardner, you’re in luck because we’re about to break it down for you. This post is all about answering the question: what does a feather in a cowboy hat mean?

While cowboy hats have been around for centuries, the tradition of wearing a feather in them is a bit more recent. 

Cowboys often stick a feather in their hat to show off their accomplishments or to signify a personal achievement. 

It’s a way of saying, “Hey, look at me! I did something awesome!”

But what exactly does a feather in a cowboy hat mean?

Is it a symbol of bravery or just a fashion statement? The answer is a little bit of both.

In some cultures, wearing a feather in one’s hat might symbolize an act of heroism or bravery. 

In the world of cowboys, however, it’s more about personal achievement and pride.

It could also simply be a sentimental token. Or a way of adding a touch of flair to the hat (for a special occasion).

The History of Cowboy Hats

Cowboy hats have been around for quite some time and have become an iconic symbol of the American West. 

The first cowboy hats were made in the early 1860s by John B. Stetson, who was inspired by the wide-brimmed hats worn by Mexican vaqueros. [Source]

Early cowboy hats were made of beaver fur. They were designed to keep the sun out of the wearer’s eyes and protect them from the elements.

As the popularity of cowboy hats grew, so did the number of styles and designs. 

The most common type of cowboy hat is the 10-gallon hat, which has a wide brim and a high crown. 

Other popular styles include the flat-brimmed hat, the gambler hat, and the pinch-front hat.

Cowboy hats were not just worn by cowboys, but also by ranchers, farmers, and other people who worked outside. 

The hats were an essential part of their wardrobe and were often decorated with feathers, beads, and other embellishments.

Today, cowboy hats are still popular and are worn by people all over the world.

They are often seen at rodeos, country music concerts, and other Western-themed events. 

Cowboy hats have become an important part of American culture and will continue to be a symbol of the American West for years to come.

The Significance of Feathers in Native American Culture 

Feathers have played a significant role in Native American culture for centuries. 

They are often used in ceremonies and rituals and hold great spiritual and cultural significance. 

Here are some of the meanings behind feathers in Native American communities:

Honor and Respect: 

For Native Americans, the feather is a symbol of honor and respect.

It is often used as an award to recognize those who have done something noble in their lives. 

To earn this type of feather, one must usually show courage under great hardship.

They then find that they are deserving of recognition from the tribe’s elders.

Connection with the Creator: 

The feather is also believed to represent a connection between the owner, the Creator, and the bird from which the feather came.

It symbolizes trust, honor, strength, wisdom, power, and freedom. 

Sign of Achievement: 

Eagle feathers are especially significant in Native American culture. 

They are used to mark every modern-day milestone from military service to graduation, sobriety, life events, or career achievement. 

To have enough eagle feathers to wear a headdress is a sign that the individual has performed great works in life.

In addition to these meanings, feathers also play a role in many Native American creation stories and legends.

For example, in the Lakota creation story, a white eagle carries a feather to a woman who becomes the mother of the Lakota people. 

Feathers are also used in many healing ceremonies and are believed to have spiritual healing properties. [Source]

Overall, feathers hold a deep cultural and spiritual significance in Native American communities. 

They are a symbol of honor, respect, and connection with the Creator and are used in many ceremonies and rituals.

The Feather in a Cowboy Hat Tradition

Have you ever wondered why cowboys wear feathers in their hats? It turns out that there are several reasons behind this tradition.

Here are a few:

  • Respect for Native American culture: The cowboy hat has its roots in the hats worn by Mexican vaqueros, who were influenced by the hats worn by Spanish conquistadors. However, the feather in the cowboy hat can be traced back to Native American culture. Cowboys would often trade with Native Americans, and the feather in the hat was a way to show respect for their culture.
  • Symbol of bravery: In some cases, the feather in the hat can be a symbol of bravery or heroism. Cowboys were often faced with dangerous situations, and the feather was a way to show that they had faced their fears and come out on top.
  • Good luck charm: Native American tribes believed that feathers brought good luck and prosperity. Cowboys would often wear feathers in their hats as a way to bring good fortune to their travels and work.

While there is no one definitive reason for the feather in the cowboy hat tradition, it is clear that it has become an important symbol for cowboys and Western culture. 

So the next time you see a cowboy with a feather in his hat, remember that it represents a rich history and tradition.


After researching the meaning of a feather in a cowboy hat, it’s clear that there is no one definitive answer.

Different people attach different meanings to the feather, and they can vary depending on the person’s culture, values, and personal experiences.

Some cowboys wear a feather in their hats as a symbol of respect for Native American culture, while others wear it for fashion or personal reasons. 

Some believe it adds visual interest to their outfit, while others see it as a symbol of bravery or heroism.

Regardless of the reason, it’s clear that the feather in a cowboy hat is a unique and personal choice. 

It’s a way for cowboys to express themselves and their individuality, while also paying homage to the rich history and culture of the American West.

So whether you choose to wear a feather in your cowboy hat or not, just remember that it’s a personal choice and there’s no right or wrong answer. 

As long as it makes you feel confident and comfortable, that’s all that matters.


On which side of your cowboy hat should the feather be?

If you’re wondering which side of a cowboy hat to stick that fancy feather, most cowboys will tell ya to put it on the left side.

You see, back in the day, cowboys used to wear their hat brims curved up on the right side to make it easier to draw their six-shooter from their holster. 

That meant the left side of their hat was more visible, so if they had a feather or other decoration, that’s where they’d put it to show it off.

Of course, these days you can wear your hat brim however you dang well please, but putting that feather on the left side can still give you that classic cowboy look. 

So go ahead and channel your inner John Wayne – just remember to tip your hat to the ladies and mind your manners.

How to fix a feather to your cowboy hat

First off, you’re gonna need a little something called a hat feather holder or a hat pin. 

These handy dandy accessories are designed to attach to your hat and hold your feather securely in place. 

You can find ’em at most western wear shops or online.

Once you’ve got your feather holder or pin, it’s time to get to work. 

Start by sliding the holder onto the brim of your hat on the side where you want the feather to go. 

Then, gently slide your feather into the holder or pin, making sure it’s snug and secure.

If you’re using a hat pin, be sure to push it all the way through the feather and into the hat to make sure it doesn’t come loose. 

And if you’ve got multiple feathers to attach, feel free to mix and match ’em to create your own unique style.

If you don’t have a hat pin, you can still attach feathers to your cowboy hat using a pair of needlenose pliers.

Here’s a great video that shows you exactly how to attach a feather to your hat using that method:

That’s it, folks!

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Citations and further reading

Reynolds, William. The cowboy hat book. Gibbs Smith, 1995.

Icon of American Culture: the Cowboy Hat

Worthen, Kevin J. “Eagle feathers and equality: Lessons on religious exceptions from the native american experience.” U. Colo. L. Rev. 76 (2005): 989.