What hat looks good on your head is highly subjective, but the most common complaints about the original cotton duck Tilley and the many subsequent variants are the way their brims droop and the puckered look the canvas takes on after they dry from washing or a thorough soaking.
This is the story of how I came to own a Tilley and discover a way to address those complaints.
I actually found my Tilley in a parking lot, way out beyond the door-ding zone where I park and others do not. I picked the hat up and inspected it. Besides a small snag on the underside of the brim and the cord missing, it was in very good condition. When I see a misplaced personal item like that, I usually just leave it there, figuring when the person who lost it realizes it's gone, he'll back-track and find it.
Immediately discovering the "secret" pocket in the crown, I checked it for contact information. Well, what do you know, inside was the credit card receipt dated 08-10-96 with the buyer's signature (the account number was smartly torn off), a bunch of the cards with all the Tilley marketing malarkey, and the original hang tag: Tilley Endurables TC3 1000 KHAKI 7 1/4 $49.00. That's the one with the mid-width brim and a 4-inch crown with two giant brass grommets on either side for ventilation. With snaps on both sides, you can wear it in a variety of ways.
Because it was flat as a Shaquille O'Neal free throw from having apparently been run over, and was lying in the lot of a dollar store in a seedy part of town, I, disguised as a mild-mannered bargain shopper, ducked into a nearby phone booth and emerged as Hatman to the rescue!
Even though the purchase date was nine years prior, it should be fairly easy to contact this person, I thought, as I had her full name and the name and address of the store where it was purchased--hundreds of miles from where I found the hat. When I got home, I called Information in the town where it was purchased and asked for both her number and the store's. There was no listing for her, and the people at the store said they didn't keep records of customer purchases. Then, thinking she may have sent in a warranty card, I phoned Tilley, but they didn't have any information on her, either. Finally, I Googled her name, but nothing came up.
OK, dead-end. Hatman was thwarted by his evil nemesis, Info Blackhole. Drat! The rightful owner of this Tilley had quite obviously loved the hat, as she'd taken good care of it, saved the original receipt, even the hang tag, and kept it all for nine years.
Now it was mine, a size too large, and, frankly, not the sportiest-looking lid I ever saw. Even though it appeared clean, on general principle, I hand washed, rinsed, and dried it according to the directions on the Tilley web site. The good news was that it shrunk a full size and fit perfectly. The bad news was that it looked even worse, the brim now flopped too far down and the whole hat having a "squinched" appearance. That should be no surprise, as anything made out of cotton canvas takes on that puckered look after it's been wet and then dries.
Clean and crisp, I don't care at all for the slept-in-your-clothes look, but the Hat God clearly intended me to have this Tilley. So, there in the laundry room it sat, staring at me with that scrunched-up smile, as if to ask, "So, when are you going to wear me?"
It was just that inquisitive look that prompted me to take action when I was in there one day ironing some khaki trousers. With the iron already on high with maximum steam, I pressed the Tilley's brim flat, pressing down hard. Then, not quite so forceful, I pressed the side of the crown, ooching it around over the narrow end of the board. Seeing some sort of synthetic inside the secret pocket that makes the hat float, I steered clear of the top of the crown, but it really didn't need ironing anyway.
I monkeyed around a bit more to tilt the front and back brims slightly downward, for a safari look. I must say, this simple ironing maneuver really improved the look of my T3, and anyone could do likewise with any of the Tilley cotton duck models. Of course, this treatment will not last forever, but it holds the shape pretty well through sweat and light rain, but needs a re-do after a complete soaking or dunking.
I wear it to do yard work in warm to hot weather, so when it got dirty, I gave it another washing. That time, I just put the iron on with no steam while the hat was still wet from rinsing. This time, I cocked the brim at the exact angle I wanted it first time. That method worked even better, making the brim a bit stiffer and holding its shape longer. The last time it got dirty enough to wash, I did the same thing, but put some spray starch on the brim. That made it considerably snappier looking, but when some big drops of rain hit it as I was finishing up the yard, they made "whelps."
Next time I do the wash, rinse, spray-starch, and iron routine, I'm going to spray a couple of light coats of Scotchguard all over for protection. That's not really so much to make the hat water-proof, which it already pretty much is to begin with, but to protect the starch job from moisture. Should keep it from getting soiled as fast, as well.
While I would not go so far as to say I made a silk purse from a sow‚Äôs ear, giving your canvas Tilley this treatment will dramatically improves its appearance. Though it‚Äôs very high quality, because of the off-the-shelf look, I would have never bought a Tilley, but I‚Äôve come to really like it with this easy alteration. I‚Äôm trying my darndest to wear this one out so I can get a new one just like it, only with the glare-reducing dark green under-brim.
‚ÄúHoly fedora, Hatman, your Tilley actually looks good!‚Äù