Tilley Tale: Silk Purse from Sow's Ear?

Discussion in 'Hats' started by NonEntity, Feb 28, 2008.

  1. NonEntity

    NonEntity Suspended

    Messages:
    281
    Location:
    Southeastern U.S.
    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’s ear, giving your canvas Tilley this treatment will dramatically improves its appearance. Though it’s very high quality, because of the off-the-shelf look, I would have never bought a Tilley, but I’ve come to really like it with this easy alteration. I’m 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.

    “Holy fedora, Hatman, your Tilley actually looks good!”
     
    M Hatman likes this.
  2. Caledonia

    Caledonia Practically Family

    Messages:
    954
    Location:
    Scotland
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! You have just saved my Tilley from consignment to the garden shed, bottom box, under the old sacks. I thought I had a faulty hat when I washed it and despite reshaping as Tilley described, it just continued to pucker and look less and less cool.

    The "Duh!" of it all is that I have ironed, steam and dry, all my problematic vintage hats to total wearableness, and never thought to deal with those Tilley puckers similarly! I am now heading for the ironing board and know I will have total success.
     
  3. NonEntity

    NonEntity Suspended

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    281
    Location:
    Southeastern U.S.
    Caledonia,

    Happy to help and tickled that someone else is actually going to try this. Let me know how your Tilley turns out. With your considerable experience, you may come up with an improvement to my technique.

    I have a wool felt crushable Dorfman Pacific that is my yard work cool-weather counterpart to the Tilley. Over time, it has gradually developed a now bad case of Droopy Brim Syndrome: all around, the brim, which was once at a 90-degree angle to the crown, sags down, particularly on the front and sides. It's in otherwise excellent condition, but the droop gives it a tired and sad look.

    I've thought about trying the Tilley technique on it, starch and all, but have not yet done so. How would you recommend restoring the brim to a right angle to the crown? The hat has a 2 1/2-inch-wide stitched underwelt brim, which I wear fedora style turned down in front and up in back, a fabric sweat, leather hatband, is unlined, colored dark loden, and the pre-formed crown with basic center bash and two front-side dents is 4 1/2 inches tall, if those details help with your suggestion.
     
  4. Joel Tunnah

    Joel Tunnah Practically Family

    Messages:
    524
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    I'm very surprised to hear that it shrunk a size when washed. They make quite a bit of the fact that they use boiled, pre-shrunk cloth to make them. In fact, it says plainly on the Tilley website, "They won't shrink."

    I have the T3, and it's a very well-made hat. I personally don't think they're that bad looking, and wearing felt in 90 degree heat is bad for the brain.

    The surplus style "jungle boony", or Patagonia type hats simply don't have the brim width needed for true sun protection, and don't have the durability.

    Joel
     
  5. bolthead

    bolthead My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,901
    Location:
    Pennsylvania, United States
    Great Story....

    I'm wondering though, did "Spellflower's" Tilly Fedora Thread inspire you to write this? :D
     
  6. NonEntity

    NonEntity Suspended

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    281
    Location:
    Southeastern U.S.
    Precisely, Bolthead, but I decided to start a new thread that focused on improving the Tilley's appearance and, of course, begins with one of my not-so-short stories.
     
  7. NonEntity

    NonEntity Suspended

    Messages:
    281
    Location:
    Southeastern U.S.
    You know, it may not have shrunk, after all. I never tried the hat on until after I washed, rinsed, and dried it (See the thread on head lice from a few months ago.) Since it was a 7 1/4, and I usually wear a 7 1/8, I just assumed it shrunk. Looking at the Tilley web site just a moment ago, I read that they recommend getting a size larger than your regular size in this hat. So that probably explains why the 7 1/4 is a perfect fit, which in a hot weather cloth hat is appropriately slightly loose.

    Then again, that first time I washed it, I was in a hurry to try it on, so I threw it in the dryer on the sizzling-hot setting, so it may have shrunk a little bit. Who knows, but it fits and looks pretty good with my starch-and-iron treatment.
     
  8. BryanB

    BryanB One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    138
    My Tilley t3 wanderer came with creases in the brim. I wasn't sure if I should try to iron them out, as it might shrink the brim. It's a 60cm, and I'm a 59cm, I had to stretch it over my knee several times to get it to fit because it was too small. In the pics on Tilleys site the hats fit large and brims provide a lot of coverage. My brim doesn't provide nearly as much shade coverage as advertised, though a decent amount.

    The brim of the T3 wanderer is fairly flimsy, and not stiff like the T3 classic. The classic also provides a really good amount of sun protection over the wanderer. I wish Tilley would change that.

    I tried ironing the brim. It worked out okay. The brim is still a little misshapen, but much better now. If the brim shrunk, not enough to to notice. I attached before after pics. If anyone is interested.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 8, 2020
  9. johnnycanuck

    johnnycanuck Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,640
    Location:
    Alberta
    Fun Tilley history. They got the contract for the American boonie hats for the first Iraqi war in 1992. Yes a Canadian company. Well Tilley paid attention to what the troops were doing to the hats to improve the product. One of the first thing a lot of troops did was pop the seam on the brim and feed a wire thru it to keep its shape.
    Long story short if you buy virtually any other hat other then a T3 (Pin up sides) the brim has a wire in it. (Plastic I think) I have a T4 cotton and love it.
    Johnny
     
    Rmccamey likes this.
  10. BryanB

    BryanB One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    138
    My T3 brim is fairly stiffs and holds shape, granted a disheveled one. The wanderer on the other is all floppy, and I had to iron it to get the shape I want, and it would probably lose shape very easy.

    It's not surprising, the USA and Canada coordinate closely on many issues. I'd know. Im originally from Buffalo, with family from both sides in Canada. When I looked up their customer service to complain about the hat being too preshrunk, the website, says Tilleys US based office is in Tonawanda, NY, the suburb of Buffalo I'm from.
     

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