Western Hat Storage, Cleaning & Shaping
Extend the Life of Your Western Hat
Storing a Western Hat – When not on your head your western hat will last much longer if it is stored properly. The best way to store a hat is crown down in a hat box. This keeps the brim from being bent and also reduces dust collection on the hat. A hat rack or shelf are also fine to store a hat provided the hat is not resting on the brim in any way.
Drying a Western Hat – If your hat gets wet always allow it to dry naturally before storing – do not, under any circumstances, attempt to dry a felt or wool hat using any source of heat such as resting atop a lamp or blow drying. Felt and wool hats are treated with chemicals that can be very flammable.
Traveling with a Western Hat – If you travel frequently with your hat(s) you may want to purchase a hard plastic hat can for $30 – $50.
Materials used to make a Western Hat – In addition to the very common straw, felt, and wool hats most western hats of better quality will be manufactured using fur of rabbit, beaver, chinchilla and cashmere.
Western Hat Seasons/Occasions – Different seasons and occasions make for a variety of hat choices. Hat wearers normally own a variety of hats. For example, a Winter hat, a Summer hat, a Work Hat, and/or a formal Dress Hat.
Cleaning a Western Hat – Every hat is cleaned differently and requires different applications and products depending upon the materials used in the manufacture of the hat. A felt hat for instance is cleaned very simply. The nap of the felt on the crown and up-side of the brim goes counter-clockwise, so during cleaning you would brush in that direction. Once the loose dirt is off, use a dry sponge to go over the crown and brim again. This also helps raise the nap. Actually, you might want to go to your local western-wear store and pick up a little orange sponge specially-made for cleaning hats (add link). Be sure your hat cleaning tools are kept separate. Different brushes and sponges for light colored hats and for darker hats. You want to work from the inside out when cleaning the brim. Keep your brushing motion in a counter clockwise sweep. Dusting off your hat actually pulls dirt, hair and grime out of the felt. Clean the crown of your hat from front to back keeping with the nap. To finish gently steam over for a fresh clean look.
Shaping a Western Hat – The best way to shape a felt, wool or wool blend hat is to first go through the process of cleaning the hat to be sure all dirt, dust and debris have been removed. After cleaning, the hat will need to be brushed. This is often done using hat brushes made of horse hair. There are specially shaped hat brushes which help to prepare the hat to be shaped. These brushes also help to flatten the brim. Once the brim has been flattened the hat should be steamed heavily. Steam actually makes the felt or wool moist. In order to reshape a brim the material must be thoroughly moistened, but not wet. Some people choose to use a plastic hat form to shape, however, this limits them to that one specific shape. There is a “special hand shaping technique” that can only be learned through experience. Hats contain pressure points. Manipulation of the pressure points by hand to acquire a variety of looks and shapes is an art. Regardless of whether shaping is done using a form; or by hand, once the desired shape is achieved the hat should be sprayed with hat stiffener. Spray starch should never be used to stiffen a hat! The material used to make the hat will determine the amount of stiffener applied. Wool hats require only a light application of stiffener. Felt hats can withstand a little more. Hat stiffener adds what is called “body” to the look of the hat.
One local Western Store that has been cleaning and “hand shaping” hats for decades is JC Western in Jupiter and West Palm Beach. Sam was taught by his father who learned 60+ years ago. Sam has been shaping hats for more than 20+ years and has shared his knowledge with numerous employees since. The art of hand shaping a hat requires not only knowledge of all the varying materials used to make different styles of western hats; but, also knowledge of the amount of pressure that can be applied to obtain maximum shape and fit to achieve a custom made look of personal style.