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How do I stretch my hat?

jdouglasj

Familiar Face
Messages
58
I have just received shipment of a custom hat, and my only complaint is that it is a touch too tight. The store that made the hat is a two hour flight away. The only hat maker I know in Chicago won't touch hats that weren't purchased at his store.

There's a western store in Chicago, and I could try going there. But then my follow up question is what happens if they make it too big? Can the hat be shrunken down easily enough?

Or is this something I can safely do myself?
 

belfastboy

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,882
Location
vancouver, canada
I have just received shipment of a custom hat, and my only complaint is that it is a touch too tight. The store that made the hat is a two hour flight away. The only hat maker I know in Chicago won't touch hats that weren't purchased at his store.

There's a western store in Chicago, and I could try going there. But then my follow up question is what happens if they make it too big? Can the hat be shrunken down easily enough?

Or is this something I can safely do myself?
Have you spoken to the shop that made it? A custom hat should fit. If this were me I would contact them, explain the situation and ask them to take it back and resize it. At worst it will cost you $20 to mail it back. It will cost you that much to have the western shop stretch it, or you can buy a hat stretcher for $25. Send it back. In my experience stretching a hat never works out to my satisfaction.
 

jdouglasj

Familiar Face
Messages
58
I have not talked to the maker yet. I'm a little torn about whether I should have it stretched or not. I have three expensive hats. Two are off-the-shelf from Optimo in Chicago, one is a fedora the other a Panama. I would say the Panama fits best. It feels comfortable and does not leave a mark on my head, but when it's windy I can pull it down a little tighter and it will not blow off even in very strong winds. Even pulled down tight it doesn't feel uncomfortable.

My fedora feels great, but if it's really windy I can't just pull it down to tighten the fit. I have to have my hand at the ready or it could be taking a roll. For that reason, I would say it's a little too big.

My new custom hat is tighter than the Panama. If it was the first hat I'd ever owned I wouldn't even suggest it was too tight because I wouldn't have anything to compare it to. It's not uncomfortable and it won't blow off in the wind, but it's definitely not as comfortable as my Panama.

I guess what I want is a fit where I barely notice it when it's in my normal wearing position, and isn't uncomfortable when it is in the windy position.

When I was in the store he was holding the tape around my head and asked "how's that?" I think I said it was a tad tight and he loosened it a bit. Even after he loosened it I thought it was a bit tight, but I didn't say anything.
 
Messages
16,662
Location
Central California
If all it needs is a bump then I’d say have a go at it yourself. I’ve damaged several hats trying to up-size them a whole size, and I’ve also had it work satisfactorily a few times: the odds are against you. However, if it just needs a little bump, no more than half a size, or if the shape is off and it just needs a bit longer oval than I’m all for doing it yourself. I’m a proponent of using a band block in your size and oval rather than using a hat stretcher. Be aware that resizing a hat can mess with the brim tension and cause the brim to get wonky.

Otherwise, I’m sure there are hatters closer other than Optimo. The maker should also offer you this service and shipping is cheaper than airfare.
 

suitedcboy

One Too Many
Messages
1,333
Location
Fort Worth Texas or thereabouts
Is it really too big or not conformed to your head all the way around? If you put it on snugly can you almost get your pinky in at the temples? I wear western felt hats every day and fedoras once or twice per week. I often have to take my much stiffer westerns and "train" them to my forehead and temples before they fit comfortably. I use a V made by thumb and index finger on one hand on outside of crown at front at the brim-crown break (where sweatband is attached) and on the the inside on sweatband I use thumb of the other hand and push outward between the V supporting hat. That pushes the felt in that area out and that deformation works the felt and sweatband and gets more compliance. After I work the hat that way around the forehead area it makes the fit more comfortable if the hat is really not fitting around the temple area and not so much a too small problem.
 

Nobert

Practically Family
Messages
829
Location
In the Maine Woods
Something I've used with moderate success is a spray-on thing called Shoe Stretcher. I don't know what it does, chemically, but it elasticizes the leather a bit, to facilitate size nudges.

If you want to shrink a hat band, that's easy. Just give it a good steaming over a tea kettle, think to yourself "Hey, why am I standing here holding this, I could just prop it up somehow," then leave the sweatband resting on the metal spout and walk away. This will also add some rustic charm to your hat by breaking up the rigid straight edge of the leather band into an organic, lumpy wobble.
 

DOGMAN

One Too Many
Messages
1,625
Location
Northeast Ohio
Is it really too big or not conformed to your head all the way around? If you put it on snugly can you almost get your pinky in at the temples? I wear western felt hats every day and fedoras once or twice per week. I often have to take my much stiffer westerns and "train" them to my forehead and temples before they fit comfortably. I use a V made by thumb and index finger on one hand on outside of crown at front at the brim-crown break (where sweatband is attached) and on the the inside on sweatband I use thumb of the other hand and push outward between the V supporting hat. That pushes the felt in that area out and that deformation works the felt and sweatband and gets more compliance. After I work the hat that way around the forehead area it makes the fit more comfortable if the hat is really not fitting around the temple area and not so much a too small problem.
Interesting I will give that a shot.
 

jdouglasj

Familiar Face
Messages
58
I am wearing the hat as I work and I have it pulled down as tight as it can go (not comfortable!). Will this stretch the hat, or will it just immediately shrink back?

P.S. suitedcboy, there are no gaps anywhere. It seems to conform to my head evenly all the way around.
 

johnnycanuck

Call Me a Cab
Messages
2,961
Location
Alberta
It will stretch the hat. But I would buy a hat Jack myself. It will be good for this hat and all your others
Johnny
 
Last edited:
Messages
18,062
Location
Funkytown, USA
Something I've used with moderate success is a spray-on thing called Shoe Stretcher. I don't know what it does, chemically, but it elasticizes the leather a bit, to facilitate size nudges.

If you want to shrink a hat band, that's easy. Just give it a good steaming over a tea kettle, think to yourself "Hey, why am I standing here holding this, I could just prop it up somehow," then leave the sweatband resting on the metal spout and walk away. This will also add some rustic charm to your hat by breaking up the rigid straight edge of the leather band into an organic, lumpy wobble.

I hope you're kidding with that last part. In case you are not:

DO NOT EXPOSE A VINTAGE LEATHER HATBAND TO STEAM.

It will ruin it in about two seconds.
 

AbbaDatDeHat

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,063
Something I've used with moderate success is a spray-on thing called Shoe Stretcher. I don't know what it does, chemically, but it elasticizes the leather a bit, to facilitate size nudges.

If you want to shrink a hat band, that's easy. Just give it a good steaming over a tea kettle, think to yourself "Hey, why am I standing here holding this, I could just prop it up somehow," then leave the sweatband resting on the metal spout and walk away. This will also add some rustic charm to your hat by breaking up the rigid straight edge of the leather band into an organic, lumpy wobble.
I certainly hope this is a joke!!

I can’t abide by this technique in the least bit to do anything other than ruin a hat.
So...i certainly hope cautious skepticism is used by any readers that have little or no experience with teapots and hats.
B
 

belfastboy

I'll Lock Up
Messages
8,882
Location
vancouver, canada
I certainly hope this is a joke!!

I can’t abide by this technique in the least bit to do anything other than ruin a hat.
So...i certainly hope cautious skepticism is used by any readers that have little or no experience with teapots and hats.
B
I have mistakenly hit an older leather sweat with a shot of steam....I liken it to when a slug is hit with a sprinkle of salt........instant mess curled into a ball.
 

Nobert

Practically Family
Messages
829
Location
In the Maine Woods
I certainly hope this is a joke!!

I can’t abide by this technique in the least bit to do anything other than ruin a hat.
So...i certainly hope cautious skepticism is used by any readers that have little or no experience with teapots and hats.
B

I was kidding inasmuch as this is something I did do accidentally, and it did shrink and warp the sweatband. I thought it was obvious that this was facetious, but if not, then no, don't really do that.
 

TheGuitarFairy

Practically Family
Messages
608
Location
Just West of Boston
A "touch" too tight?
I'm definitely way-still on learning curve compared to most here but if it were my hat I'd either a) wear the heck out of the thing in hopes It'd open up a little, b) heavy-spritz with distilled water where crown and brim meet, inside and out (dry sweat band afterwards) and wear the thing or
c) b+steam but don't steam sweat band ... and then ... wear the hat. It should give a touch.
The above if "a touch tight" is truly accurate.
 

jdouglasj

Familiar Face
Messages
58
A "touch" too tight?
I'm definitely way-still on learning curve compared to most here but if it were my hat I'd either a) wear the heck out of the thing in hopes It'd open up a little, b) heavy-spritz with distilled water where crown and brim meet, inside and out (dry sweat band afterwards) and wear the thing or
c) b+steam but don't steam sweat band ... and then ... wear the hat. It should give a touch.
The above if "a touch tight" is truly accurate.
After talking with the maker, this is the what I'll try.
 
Messages
18,062
Location
Funkytown, USA
I have mistakenly hit an older leather sweat with a shot of steam....I liken it to when a slug is hit with a sprinkle of salt........instant mess curled into a ball.

Bingo!

I was kidding inasmuch as this is something I did do accidentally, and it did shrink and warp the sweatband. I thought it was obvious that this was facetious, but if not, then no, don't really do that.

Thanks, I just worry about the casual browser that comes by the lounge for advice. Belfastboy is right. Those suckers'll melt like butter on a hot plate.
 

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