Not all wool felts are created equal. There are dozens of steps in producing wool felt and some of these steps are unfortunately cut out to make less expensive hats. We always have a few price point hats on hand, but most of our wool felt hats are made in the United States in heritage factories. These hats are treated to make them water resistant but we don’t advise you to wear your hat in a heavy rain. Our hats come in a wide range of colors and finishes – most of our wool felts have a matte finish but we have a few with a longer hair and a bit of shine. These hats make good everyday and fashion hats and take a fair amount of abuse.
The hats your grandparents - and their grandparents - wore were made from fur felt. This traditional felt is usually made with a blend of rabbit and wild hare from Eastern Europe , but other types of fur, including beaver, can be used. The material is dense and thin with a crisp finish and most of our hats have either a bound edge or a raw edge to better appreciate the crispness of the hat. Finishes can range from a soft matte to velour to a long hair shine or a tussled long hair.
As a general rule, woven natural straws are breathable and delicate. In addition to the specific straws listed below, this category includes straws such as laichow, parisisol, raffia, seagrass, and sisal. The single most important thing you can do to prolong the life of your hat is to handle it with two hands, by the brim. You should never pick up your hat by the crown – you’ll crack it open in no time and cry real tears over it. If you don’t think you can stop yourself from grabbing your hat by the crown, we advise you to look at our collection of braids – they can take a lot of abuse.
There are two easy ways to identify panama hats – 1) look for the “Hand woven in Ecuador” seal on the inside of the hat and 2) they’re woven from the center top out, resulting in a distinctive circular knot of fibers. Panama hats are frequently crisp and dressy, and breathable but delicate. The single most important thing you can do to prolong the life of your hat is to handle it with two hands by the brim. You should never pick up your hat by the crown – you’ll crack it open in no time and cry real tears over it. If you don’t think you can stop yourself from grabbing your hat by the crown, we advise you to look at our collection of braids – they can take a lot of abuse.
Sometimes called "Toyo" or "Twisted Toyo," paper straw is a less expensive alternative to panama. They breath reasonably well, especially twisted toyo. The single most important thing you can do to prolong the life of your hat is to handle it with two hands by the brim. You should never pick up your hat by the crown – you’ll crack it open in no time and cry real tears over it. If you don’t think you can stop yourself from grabbing your hat by the crown, we advise you to look at our collection of braids – they can take a lot of abuse.
Shantung is a thin natural straw made from finely woven rolled rice paper with a coating for strength and a bit of sheen. These hats, like all woven straw hats, are delicate. The single most important thing you can do to prolong the life of your hat is to handle it with two hands by the brim. You should never pick up your hat by the crown – you’ll crack it open in no time and cry real tears over it. If you don’t think you can stop yourself from grabbing your hat by the crown, we advise you to look at our collection of braids – they can take a lot of abuse.
Sinamay is most commonly used for dressy feminine summer hats. Think Kentucky Derby, outdoor wedding, and Sunday best. They hold color well and come in all the shades of the rainbow. Sinamay can be starched to be ridged for gravity defying fascinators and whirls of trim or kept soft to make big dramatic brims. These hats do very poorly in weather and should be kept dry.
Braids are a broad category encompassing a wide variety of natural and synthetic materials. Narrow strips of plaited fiber are sewn together from the top of the crown out to the edge of the brim. They are then blocked for a crisp finish and trimmed. This construction makes them harder wearing than woven options, but not as hard wearing as felts.
We found this delightful vintage video showing how braids are sewn. Although this film is from 1955, little has changed. In fact, little has changed in hat manufacturing since the 1800s, when steam power was introduced. Much of the equipment used today was retrofitted from steam power.
We seriously love hemp braids and take credit for convincing Stetson USA and Dobbs to add them to their offerings. Hemp fibers are woven into a thin braid, which is then sewn to form the hat. Hemp braids are both breathable and durable and frequently our top choice for everyday wear. They hold color well can take poor handling, but we still advise you to handle your hat with two hands by the brim. Picking up your hat by the crown can change the shape of your hat and the natural oils on your hands will leave marks over time.
The braid structure (fibers are woven into a strip, which is then sewn to form the hat from the center top) adds even more durability to the already hard-wearing, soft, and breathable linen. It’s usually blended with paper, polyester, and/or polypropylene to help keep its shape.
“Braid” is a bit of a misnomer. These hats are made from strips of palm fibers that are sewn together from the center top to form the hat. These hats are ridged and hold their shape incredibly well, which makes them an excellent choice for wider brimmed hats and sun protection. They often have grommeted air vents to increase airflow as they are not especially breathable without. Many of ours are outdoor hats for hiking, gardening, and other recreational activities, so they come with chin cords.
Paper Braids are far more durable than woven paper, which can be listed as “paper,” “toyo,” or “shantung.” They’re made from fine strands of rolled paper that are woven into a strip, which is then sewn to form the hat. Sometimes the paper is blended with polyester or polypropylene for added strength. They take a beating and, because they’re priced affordably, you won’t be furious with yourself if you need a new one every season.
These hats come in beautiful, vivid colors that hold over time. These hats don’t breathe as well as natural fibers, but they’re virtually indestructible – just don’t light them on fire or expose them to chlorinated water. They’re easy to pack and can be wiped down with a damp cloth if they get sweaty. All that and they’re typically available at a lower price point than woven styles.
Sometimes called “horsehair” or “crinoline,” nylon braids make beautiful feminine hats. They’re light and airy, but not great for sun protection. They come in a wide range of colors. These hats take a fair amount of abuse but can be trimmed with beautiful feather work that is delicate. They can be a great choice if you need to travel with your hat or are going to an outdoor event and are not sure about the weather.
Ribbon hats are made from ribbon stitched together in the same way braids are stitched. They tend to be durable, with many casual styles being packable and rollable. The material is most common in summer styles, but occasionally shows up in feminine dress hats in high quality ribbons.
Also called “cut and sew,” these styles are made from fabric by the yard that is cut and sewn into shape. A wide variety of materials can be utilized to make fabric hats, including cotton, linen, polyester, rayon, silk, and wool, with or without patterns (we love unusual caps and focus our Stetson Europe collection around specialty fabrics and eccentric prints), and a wide variety of weaves. Most caps can take a beating and, with the exception of linen, be folded into a coat pocket by tucking the brim into the back inner edge of the hat. They’re a great way to transition from a baseball cap to hats (our top recommendations can be found in our Basics collection). Hang them from a hook or store them with padding during the off season to reduce wrinkling.
Stetson Europe put together a beautiful video showing how they make caps in their Germany factory. It's well worth a watch.
Cotton fabrics come in a variety of weights from heavy canvas to light and breathable dress-shirt weights. Most of our cotton styles are lighter weight materials that breath well for spring, summer, and fall, but, depending on the color, can be worn year-round. We have lined and unlined options – choose unlined for maximum breathability.
Linen is breathable and hard wearing, but wrinkles easily. It’s a wonderful material for summer caps. Many of our linen caps have a subtle texture for added interest. For maximum breathability, look for unlined options. These hats should be stored with tissue or cloth padding to hold their shape and keep wrinkling to a minimum.
Polyester is often blended with cotton or wool to add durability and reduce cost. It often adds a bit of texture as well. Polyester is a great fiber for staying warm, so if you’re concerned about breathability, skip it. If you’re looking for something to keep you warm in the winter, polyester is the ticket.
Rayon is an unusual material, being both a natural fiber and a man-made material, processed from wood pulp or bamboo. It has a feel similar to silk, is as breathable as cotton or silk, and often blended with both fibers to keep cost down. One thing to be aware of is that rayon loses strength when wet, so if your cut and sew hat gets soaked, lay it to dry as soon as possible to prevent stretching out of shape.
Silk is a bit of a wonder fiber – it’s cool in hot weather and warm in cool weather. Our best selling pure silk hat is similar to a menswear suiting material, but many of our other styles are lighter weight. In lighter weight materials, look for blends with cotton or linen for increased breathability and durability.
Wool is a breathable natural fiber that makes beautiful woven fabrics. It comes in a wide range of qualities from heritage Harris Tweeds to introductory price point caps, that are ideal for colder weather. Most of our wool caps, casquettes, and buckets are lined, which is especially important for folks with curly hair (wool has an amazing ability to interfere with curl patterns).
The honest truth is that hat sizes vary from brand to brand and even style to style within brands. For this reason we measure the circumference of all of our hat and list that in centimeters (more accurate than inches and no weird fractions).
A few generalities to help find the right fit for you:
- Fit is personal.
- There's no wrong way to wear your hat.
- Some of us like hats that we can tuck one or both ears in, some like a jaunty tilt, some like a classic 1940s high and tight fit.
- Some styles are firm and some are soft.
- As a general rule, stiff hats tend to fit smaller, soft hats are a little more forgiving.
- Where appropriate, we put a recommendation to size up in the product description.
- Sweat band material effects fit.
- Leather will give a snug, close fit. Leather sweatbands warm up and adjust to your head, much like leathers shoes adjust to your feet.
- Cloth and grosgrain sweats give a relaxed fit. If you like to get an ear in your hat, opt for cloth or grosgrain.
- Our heads aren't all shaped the same.
- Some of us have long heads (you might hear us say that you have a 'long oval'), some very round, some of us have flat squarish foreheads (called a 'German brow' in the industry).
- If you have a long oval, opt for softer hats and choose a center crease over a teardrop crown.
- If you have a German brow, go for softer hats.
- The best way to keep your hat looking fresh and new is to handle it as little as possible.
- The oils from your hands will leave marks over time – especially on light colored hats.
- When you pick up your hat, do it with two hands by the brim. We know it’s what they do in movies, but don’t pick your hat up by the crown and definitely don’t grab it by the pinch. This is especially important with natural straw hats, which will crack open and you will be very, very sad.
- Many of our hats come already treated to be water resistant, but as a general rule, don’t wear your hat in heavy rain; light rain or drizzle is usually fine. Some brands and materials do better than others.
- Light colored hats can show spotting from acid rain. Check our materials guide if you have questions about a specific material.
- If you get caught in the rain, sleet, or snow, shake as much water off the hat as you can and let your hat to dry overnight.
When you put your brimmed hat down on a flat surface, you should rest it upside down with the crown touching the surface and the brim up (resting your hat brim side down will take the curve out and flatten the brim).
- You can hang your brimmed hat on a hook or a peg but you want to make sure that the peg isn’t poking the hat out of shape. Avoid sharp or pointy pegs.
- Long term, you should store your brimmed hat in a hat box.
- This will help maintain the shape and keep your hat free of dust, especially in the off season when you might not wear it for months. Head forms are also good to use. In the store, we use old industrial wooden spindles, candle sticks, and wall mounted candelabras.
- If you have a hat with feathers and a cat, you definitely want to store your hat in a box year-round - your cat will find and destroy those feathers in a hot second.
Caps, casquettes, and other cloth hats usually easy care.
- Like brimmed hats, they can be hung on a hook or peg.
- When you put your caps away for the season, you can stuff them with tissue paper to hold their shape and prevent deep wrinkling.
- Linen caps are particularly hard to keep wrinkle free.
- You can steam your cloth hats using a tea kettle or pot of boiling water or by using the steam setting on an iron to send out bursts of steam.
- Never iron your caps.
- Be careful not to burn yourself - steam is hotter than boiling water!
How to Clean a Hat
The first thing to understand is that hat cleaning is a specialized process that needs to be done by a professional. DO NOT ever put your hat in a washing machine or give it to a dry cleaner unless they specializes in hat cleaning (which is rare). You can gently spot clean most hats, but there aren’t a lot of places where you can get your hat cleaned these days, so you’ll want to do everything you can to keep your hat in good condition. Prevention is the name of the game.
- For felt hats – lint roll your hat regularly and use a hat brush (make sure you watch our how to use a hat brush video) to get at deeper dirt and, especially with long hair hats, keep the finish looking top notch. Bonus points if you use steam with your hat brush (use a tea kettle or a pot of boiling water if you don't have a kettle).
- For synthetic straws – brush off dust and gently wipe down your hat with a damp cloth. Be mindful of the trim, which might spot if exposed to water.
- For natural straw – brush off dust and be kind to your hat. Spot clean as soon as you notice a spot. Shantung is particularly difficult to clean.
Okay, let’s talk about sweat: it’s gross and we all want to pretend it doesn’t happen, but it does. It’s best to be prepared, especially in the warmer months.
- You can spray the inside of cloth sweatbands (the part that faces the hat) with scotch guard to make it harder for sweat to get through to the outside of the hat.
- If you’re having a sweaty moment, when you take your hat off, set it crown side down on a flat surface and flip the sweatband up so that the sweat dries out of both sides of the band, rather than through the hat. BUT if your hat has a cloth or grosgrain sweatband, it's possible that your sweatband may shrink. If you're worried about it shrinking, keep your hat on until the sweatband dries (doing so will give you a really good fit).
- The thing that is most likely to start looking bad is the hat band. You can get the band changed (this is a service we offer in the brick and mortar store) or you can put an interchangeable hat band over the existing hat band.
If you have a question about care or storage, call us at 937-222-HATS and we'll help you understand best practices, or drop us a line and set up a FaceTime or Zoom consult - sometimes it's easier to see than to tell.