What’s Up With Taylor Swift Fans And Cowboy Hats? (2024)

This past weekend, 90,000 people swarmed Melbourne as Taylor Swift played her biggest show of the Eras Tour yet. Dressed as Swift throughout the years, people flew across state lines and internationally to show off their Junior Jewels T-shirts; their heart-shaped sunglasses; their endless, colourfully personalised bracelets. They flocked to the MCG, spending thousands of dollars, either for tickets, for merch, or for some other bizarre combination of fan-crazed, Swiftie must-haves. But the most common costume choice was, strangely, the pink – or sometimes white – plastic cowboy hat.

Which is weird.Because I’m not really sure why.

When “Teardrops on my Guitar” came out, I was a 12-year-old girl in the suburbs of Virginia. I grew up knowing Taylor Swift. I can tell you about the gems applied to the corner of her eyes to memorialize the eponymous teardrops, the chunky striped top that convinced us all that it would be really hot to dress like French mimes for a year, the fedoras and the pageboy caps… but I wasn’t sure I’d ever actually seen Taylor Swift in a pink cowboy hat.

If you Google “Taylor Swift Pink Cowboy,” you’ll find that, in a technical sense, she’s worn one. As far as I could tell, there are exactly two photos of Taylor in a pink cowboy hat, and both are from a single shoot approximately 17 years ago. To the best of my knowledge, they weren't heavily featured in an album or a tour. If you expand to straw cowboy hats – which is generous because they’re an entirely different vibe – you can find another photo from the same era. But every other image, upon closer inspection, turns out to just be a photo of some other blonde woman, honouring Taylor by wearing a hat she almost never wore, an AI projection of the parallel universe where Taylor is actually into the pink cowgirl aesthetic.

Out of the hundreds – maybe thousands – of outfits that she’s been photographed in, how did one seemingly insignificant shoot become key iconography among her fans?

I decided to do a little on-the-ground reporting, and approached a source – my boyfriend’s 13-year-old niece who had joined the thousands of ticketless Swifties “Taylor-gating” outside the Melbourne venue. She gave me the same answer that I later found on Reddit – fans are manifesting Taylor’s original debut, back when she was a curly-haired country artist. But when I looked up “Taylor Swift debut,” every image was decidedly turquoise, a mass of flowy dresses, butterfly patterns, and bare feet in a creek. It’s country, yes, but not pink… and no hat.

I kept digging.

I decided to hit the streets, full of people earnestly trying to capitalise on Taylormania. We spoke to a man selling pink cowboy hats and Eras t-shirts near the venue. Football fans were walking past as a Melbourne Victory game had just finished blocks away. We asked what the deal with the pink cowboy hats was and he said they were for the football fans. I said, “What?” and he insisted: the Era t-shirts were for Swifties and the pink cowboy hats were for the Melbourne Victory game. The mystery was growing ever deeper.

What’s Up With Taylor Swift Fans And Cowboy Hats? (1)

Taylor Swift cowboy hats? No. These are for the football fans. Obviously.

I found no further evidence that Melbourne Victory supporters or players wear cowboy hats – but there’s another cultural icon who does – one who’s much more relevant to the Swift universe.

This brings me to my third theory, the one I believe deepest in my heart: people have entirely forgotten the difference between Taylor Swift and Barbie.

What’s Up With Taylor Swift Fans And Cowboy Hats? (2)

Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

We are being asked to believe that this costume is inspired by the Taylor Swift debut, and…not Barbie.

When I watched crowds line up in pink costumes, I felt a distinct wave of deja vu: didn’t we just do this? Like six months ago?

What’s Up With Taylor Swift Fans And Cowboy Hats? (3)

James Gourley/Getty Images

Maybe Taylor was never huge on mixing western attire with hot pink, but Margot Robbie as Barbie definitely was: she famously wore a pink cowgirl outfit with a white hat nearly identical to ones sold outside the concert. More to the point, aren’t they a little bit the same, anyway?

Pop-culture monoliths successfully riding the age of the girl, invoking a hyper-youthful femme aesthetic as a palatable assertion against the patriarchy? And also…, they’re both blonde. It’s just a theory. But I think there’s something there.

Anyway, I have nothing against the cowboy hat, whatever its true origin may be. I think “Cardigan” slaps and Barbie’s fascism line is funny. I can’t wait until the boundaries between all forms of entertainment dissolve into nothingness and we’re left sliding around in a delicious, pink, iridescent soup of universalized girlhood.

But even if I didn’t, these things don’t need my approval. They’re happening anyway. Cowboy hats are decidedly in. At least for a certain kind of Taylor Swift-obsessed individual.

What’s Up With Taylor Swift Fans And Cowboy Hats? (2024)
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