Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Southern Oregon
I don't know a TON but I worked at a western clothing store a few years back...
My HUMBLE advice: as for color, black is ALWAYS the safest, but you can also get a silverbelly colored hat. Its a greyish silver. You can find a decent selection of them at most stores that sell hats. SOMETIMES they tend to be made in a higher quality than some blacks or browns but not always.
Hat quality is in direct relation to the felt. Basically, how much fur/beaver us in the felt. The bottom of the barrel of quality is a 1x ---> 5x ---> 10x ----> 20x ----> 50x and everything in between. You should be able to find the quality of the hat somewhere on/under the band or in the crown lining. You can get a really low quality hat for 30 bucks I should think and the higher up in quality you go the more expensive you get, all the way up to $1000 and more. Unless you're up close and touching them to an untrained eye you won't see a huge difference in hat quality. I just looked at my hat that I beat the hell out of, packed, showed, and worked in and it was only a Wrangler 5x but, if I remember correctly, I didn't get it for nothing, thats for sure.
I think that while you're looking for your first hat get something between 5 and 10x and in your price range. I cant stress this enough. Go and try on LOTS of hats. Try on every color, brand and style in your price range. Trust me, the people there are totally used to it and you won't look or seem dumb. If you don't like the shape they can also reshape it somewhat for you.
I just looked it up and a good brand 3x - 6x will run you 60-120 bucks. Stetsons tend to be on the high end.
Hope this helped... its been awhile and theres been alot of water under the bridge. My memory is pretty darn rusty.