Stretching a hat - advice please....

Discussion in 'Hats' started by jdbenson, Jan 30, 2008.

  1. Hat Jack

    There's a stretcher on the market called a Hat-Jack. I've used it for minor corrections. Only one size is recommended, i.e. 7 1/8 up to 7 1/4. Any more can cause distortions to the crown and possibly damage the sweatband. This has been discussed in earlier threads here at the Lounge.
    -30- likes this.
  2. cooncatbob

    cooncatbob Practically Family

    Carmichael, CA.
    While I do have a hat jack I prefer vintage stretchers, the wooden part is taller and the screw is much larger.
    It's a process that's best done gradually.
    I either mist the hat with water or steam it,then tighten up the stretcher then let it sit over night, repeat if needed.
    Vintage stretcher are available on e-bay.
  3. Rev Tom

    Rev Tom New in Town

    I have been looking at hat stretchers also, and noticed there are several sizes. There is a small - for hat sizes 6 1/2 to 7 1/8, and a medium - for hat sizes 7 1/8 to 7 3/8. So if I am a 7 1/8 - which should I get?
  4. Daoud

    Daoud One of the Regulars

    Asheville, NC
    If you have a Harbor Freight Tools store near you, they have a stretcher that costs three bucks and change. It is a cheapo made-in-China affair BUT like many such things it actually works very well, or does for me at any rate. I've gone from 7 3/8 to 7 1/2 on two or three hats with no ill effects.
  5. Mike in Seattle

    Mike in Seattle My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Renton (Seattle), WA
    Do a search on "stretcher" here - as the others have mentioned, the "Hat Jack" is available from a variety of merchants - almost any Western hat store carries them, as does Harbor Freight Tools. But remember - going more than 1 size (which means 1/8) can lead to disappointment. In other words, going up 1 size doesn't mean going from a 6 to a 7 - it means going from 7 to 7-1/8. Sometimes you can get away with two sizes...or you end up with a crown ripped from the inner brim.
    -30- likes this.
  6. JoeSki

    JoeSki New in Town

    Orlando, Fl
    If you don't have anyone that deals Fedoras where you live that can stretch the hat, try doing a search for local western wear stores. Many of them sell felt cowboy hats and have the tools to tend to them, though they work just as well on fedoras. They should only charge you pocket change to resize one. I didn't know what to do with a hat I bought for my girlfriend that was too small until I checked out a nearby Skip's Western Wear. They only charged me $2.00:) .
  7. deadhead

    deadhead New in Town

    Southeastern VA
    My cranium appears to be a long oval...


    Greetings to all. This is my first post. Thanks for the forum.

    This thread seemed to be the closest wrt the questions I have. Apologies if the answers are elsewhere. I still have not obtained my first fedora, but I am serious about doing it right, within a reasonable budget.

    I measured my head at 23". A large Country Gentlemen Wilton fits me fine, and I may get one anyway due to the weather. However, I tried on three Stetson Dexters (still not exactly what I'm looking for, but wanted to check sizing). The 7 1/8 was tight all the way 'round. The nice, old gentlemen helping me at the local Dillards agreed it sat too high on my head. The 7 1/4 was still tight front and rear, but it did not touch the sides of my head. The 7 3/8 was huge. He told me I was a long oval and explained the concept. Sooooooooooo, let's say I'm a long oval. Given the Dexters as a starting point for discussion, what should I look for sizewise in a used vintage hat? Should I look for a 7 1/8 and stretch it knowing it will be too small all around, or should I look for a 7 1/4 presupposing it may have shrunk a little over the years? If a hat is stretched lengthwise, will it also narrow at the same time to conform to the hat stretcher if, in fact, the stretcher is narrower than the width of the hat? I have purchased a vintage 6 7/8 hat stretcher in anticipation.

    By the way, I watched "To Have and Have Not" with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall last night. Some great fedoras. There was a scene where a guy gets shot in the shoulder. He never takes off his fedora.

    Thanks much,

  8. indycop

    indycop I'll Lock Up

    Jacksonville, Florida
    Welcome to the lounge deadhead! I would think you would be 7 1/4 long oval and just need to try a hat stretcher. I am an extra long oval and use the stretcher for some of mine. Also a nicer hat that possibly what is at dillards may be a little softer and easier to conform.
  9. Wolfmanjack

    Wolfmanjack Practically Family

    Welcome to the lounge, Deadhead.

    IMHO, the best way to determine your hat size is to try on a lot of hats in a good hat store with hats in true sizes. Stay away from anything sized small, medium, large.

    In Southeastern Virginia, I'll bet there is a good western hat dealer within practical distance (remember, you are just trying on for size) and maybe you'll find a dealer who has some fedoras. Try on a variety of sizes and I bet you'll find you are a 7-1/4 long oval. Then, try on a variety of 7-1/4 long ovals. You'll be surprised with the variation in fit from brand-to-brand and style-to-style. Study yourself in the mirror and consider where the hat looks best, low-down near your ears or higher up, raked to one side or straight and level, back on your head exposing some forehead or down near your eyebrows.

    Once you find the best fit, ask the clerk to measure the inside circumference of the sweatband, or do it yourself as per the instructions below...if the clerk will cooperate. The measurement should be about 22-5/8 in. or 58 cm. If you pack your own tape measure, you can at least get the inside measurements front-to-back and side-to-side, then go home to use the calculator below. Now you're ready to shop on line.

    If you want to buy new on line, You have all the data you need to get a good fit. There are a number of excellent hatters that frequent the Lounge and a wealth of opinions from the regulars on quality, style, etc.

    If you want to go vintage, an older hat will most likely be at least one full size smaller than the label on the inside. So, if you are shopping for a vintage hat on eBay, the ideal tactic is to get the seller to measure the inside circumference of the sweatband. The seller will probably have no clue how to do this accurately, so you will have to give them instructions, viz.:

    "The actual size of a hat can vary widely from the stated size, due to shrinkage, etc. To be sure, it is best to take a direct measurement around the inside sweatband of the hat. You can use a belt to measure the inside circumference of the hat. Roll up the belt, place it inside the hat, unroll it until it is snug against the sweatband all around, and then mark the belt where the two ends overlap. Unroll and measure the distance between the two marks with whatever you have handy, e.g., a yardstick."

    Many eBay sellers will be baffled by these instructions and you'll have to settle for inside measurements front-to-back and side-to-side. You can get a good approximation of the circumference using this calculator.

    In regard to stretching (which is, after all, the topic of this thread) I would advise a newbie to attempt only very minor adjustments. Here is the technique I use to tune-up a hat that is just a slight bit too small or too big: Use your own noggin as a hat block.

    Turn out the sweatband and slightly dampen the rough side of the sweat and the inside of the exposed crown. Lay a narrow sheet of aluminum foil around the inside crown, so it is between the crown and the sweat when the sweatband is returned to its normal position. (This is to ensure that there is no dye transfer from the sweat to the felt of the crown.) Now, slightly dampen the smooth (inside) side of the sweat. Pop the hat on your head and adjust it to the exact position you will be wearing it. Adjust the crease in the crown and the shape of the brim according to your preference. Finally, wear it this way until it is totally dry, then remove the foil and wear it a bit longer. This may take several hours or more, depending on temperature and humidity. Result: a perfect custom fit to the exact specs of your own head.

    I hope some of the regulars will chime-in on this. When it comes to stretching hats, opinions on the Lounge are strong and vary widely. Deadhead, I would advise you to run some searches on this forum and survey the range of opinions and ideas of others besides me before proceeding further.
  10. tm3

    tm3 Familiar Face


    i don't know vintage, but i know the trials of the long oval!

    best advice i have is try on the hat you want before you buy it.

    obviously that is not always practical. i have had much more satisfaction buying a hat that is a bit too large than dealing with a hat that is too small. it is pretty simple to put some foam, folded $100 bills, etc. under the hat band to get it fitting exactly right. for me, 1.5cm larger than my head measurement compensates for my long oval.

    good luck!
  11. deadhead

    deadhead New in Town

    Southeastern VA

    Thanks. There is quite a nice men's clothing store with a large variety of hats 25+ miles from my house--Stark&Legum in Norfolk. I took the drive. It was the right thing to do as the closer western store only had very stiff cowboy hats. Nice folks working there, too. Unfortunately, despite having many hats, they had no long ovals in stock, at least none in my size. I felt best in a 7 3/8 Stetson Temple. It would have needed some padding on the sides to make it fit, but it looked good. So I'll keep my eye out on a 7 3/8 or 7 1/2 vintage fedora. Lots of ladies hats in the antique and junk shops in the local area, but no mens hats. So I took the plunge and ordered a size 59 Fed IV in Moonstone from Hats Direct. Can't wait.

    My Dad had a whole bunch of great hats, but also had a huge cranium. I could not have worn any without looking ridiculous.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all,

  12. besdor

    besdor Vendor/Sponsor

    up north
    long ovals

    There are no long ovals made anymore in the country for dress hats. Stetson , Bailey and Biltmore no longer make them. They probably dont have the blocks for them anymore. Borsalino also does not have them anymore. The only long ovals that I have seen made today are the western styles from Stetson.
    Part of the reason is the small amount of hats wearers today. It makes things much easier for the manufacturers to just produce hats in regular oval. It is similar to shoe companies now making shoes in M and W (and sometimes not even W) when they used to have A , C, D, E ,EE and EEE .

  13. Akubra Man

    Akubra Man One of the Regulars

    wolfmanjack ... this is a great piece of advice. :eusa_clap I am certain to make use of it to achieve a perfect fit for a few irregular sized hats that just do not fit right.
  14. Wolfmanjack

    Wolfmanjack Practically Family

    deadhead, I'm delighted to hear that your trip to Norfolk was a profitable one. We'll all be eager to see that Fed IV when it arrives. Post some pics of yourself in it.

    Akubra Man, I think the tune-up technique I described will help with a hat that “fits,” but just doesn't feel quite right. Really, all you are doing is accelerating the process that occurs naturally over the first several weeks of wearing a new hat.

    Be sure to use a light hand with the dampening. I use a little spray bottle that used to contain cologne, so I can put a very small amount of water exactly where I want it.

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
  15. Guinness

    Guinness New in Town

    Jackson, MS
    It has been recommended that I put a hat stretcher in my hat when not wearing it every day. As I am a new hat wearer, is this good advise?
  16. citRon

    citRon A-List Customer

    Louisville Ky

    I may be wrong, but i think you would only need to do that if you had a sug fitting hat to begin with.
  17. randooch

    randooch I'll Lock Up

    Ukiah, California
    You may want to peruse about 6,743 past posts on that subject. You'll learn tons!:)
  18. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim One Too Many

    Fort Collins, CO
    I know of no reason that's necessary unless the hat is a bit small and you want to keep it opened up to fit correctly.
  19. dawgvet

    dawgvet Familiar Face

    Waleska, Ga
    What about if you wear your hat in rain/snow/humid areas and concerned about shrinkage?
  20. Lefty

    Lefty I'll Lock Up

    I was in the pooooool!

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