Having a Hat Attack
Thanks for your note- good question! It used to be traditional to wear felt hats in the winter (they keep your head a little warmer by holding in body heat) and straws in the summer (cooler, what with the vent holes in the crown.) But, this was back in the good old days when women wore white gloves with their dresses only between Memorial Day and Labor Day- in other words, a long time ago!
There is still some of this tradition left, but it's not very rigid. A straw hat is always considered more casual than a felt, so if you are trying to look very dressy or have an outfit that has shiny fabric, rhinestones, and so on: opt for a felt all year.
However, if you are showing at local shows with say, a crisply starched cotton blouse, then the straw might be just fine anytime the weather is threatening to be even a little bit warm. I also see more straws in events like reining, cutting, and trail where there is more emphasis on the horse than the rider.
Use your own judgement, but think of this: if it's really hot and you need to let your poor head have some air, go for the straw. If it's nippy or you are trying to look fancy-schmantzy, go for a felt. The most formal look of all is a black felt, so use a buckskin or mist felt for a compromise. Those winter/summer rules kind of went out when Jackie O left the White House, so you'll be OK if you just use your noggin.
Have a great, cool summer riding!
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