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Why Is It Called a 10 Gallon Hat?

A 10 gallon hat, what is it? Everyone has heard a cowboy hat referred to as a 10 gallon hat. Have you ever stopped to ponder what that means? For me, personally, I always assumed a 10-gallon hat was a large jumbo sized  cowboy hat.

I’ve seen those weird old-fashioned photos of cowboys wearing really tall hats, so big no one in their right mind wears them today. I’m roughly good at math and spatial recognition, and I know 10-gallons is a lot of liquid. A 1-gallon jug of milk is pretty large, and we have a huge Zephyrhills bubbler in the office that holds a wicked big 5-gallon jug of water. It’s super heavy too. I nearly threw my back out replacing that sucker. So, logically, how in the world is a 10-gallon unit supposed to fit on someone’s head? That makes zero sense.


Stetson has this really famous painting of a cowboy letting a horse drink water out of his hat. I’m pretty sure the misleading marketing material didn’t help to further twist the 10-gallon myth. It makes no sense. Also confusing is that filling water into your hat is a surefire way of killing it. What’s interesting too, is that Stetson readily admits their 10-gallon hats only hold 3-quarts of water. Ha!

Now that we know it has nothing to do with how much water hats can hold, why do they call them 10 gallon hats?

Here’s why it is Called a 10 Gallon Hat

Nobody actually has a defintive answer to the origins of the 10-gallon hat name, but there are theories. First, “tan galán” in Spanish roughly translates as “so gallant.” It was thought cowboys interacting with their Mexican counter-parts heard the hat being called a “really handsome hat.” Second, is the Spanish word “galón” means “braid.” A cowboy hat has a narrow leather hatband wrapping around the crown, and was thus called the “braided hat.”

I’m going to take liberties though and create a theory for the hat. The Mexicans had an inside joke, referring to a sombrero as “tan galón” with both the “á” and the “ó” being interchangeable. It was a pun, a play on words, meaning a “really handsome braided hat.”

Therefore, it was a simple linguistic mix-up. Cowboys heard the term and assumed it was 10 gallon.

What do you think? Have you ever seen someone wear a 10-gallon hat?

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“How in the world is a 10-gallon unit supposed to fit on someone’s head? That makes zero sense.”Andy Peterson


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