How to Stretch a Hat

How to Stretch a Hat

January 08, 2023

Is your favorite hat too tight? Don’t replace it right away—check out our tips for stretching your hat. There’s more than one way to get a perfect fit!


You’ve found the perfect new hat for your unique outfit—but the hat is too small.

So how do you stretch your hat so that it fits perfectly and comfortably on your head? This guide is here to help.

Hat materials

Before we cover different approaches to adjusting a hat’s size, let’s look at the most important part of working with hats—what the hat is made of.

Different hat materials require different techniques when it comes to resizing and stretching a hat.

  • Cotton: Soft and pliable, cotton is willing to bend with the size and shape of your head. Cotton hats are among the easiest hats to shape and stretch, making them durable over the long haul.
  • Wool Felt: Wool is also soft but requires more care and attention to detail than cotton due to its delicateness. Wool also has a tendency to shrink over time. Be careful with the amount of water you use as you break in and stretch your felt hat.
  • Straw: Straw hats often have an interwoven design, making them appealing to wear and look at, but difficult to stretch.
  • Leather: Leather is stiffer than straw and easily shrinks back to its original size after being stretched. Lots of patience and attention to detail is needed to properly stretch leather hats.
  • Synthetic: Synthetic materials are generally less flexible than natural materials. This makes it more difficult to break in or stretch a hat—but it also means that it won’t shrink much.

Leather material

Once you’ve determined which material your hat is made of, there’s one more step before you start stretching the hat.

Stretching different hat styles

Hat styles require different approaches to stretching. After all, you wouldn’t want to stretch a fitted hat, such as a fedora, the same way as you would, say, a floppy sun hat.

Here we’ve given some tips to help you break in your hat according to its style.

Fedora

Most fedoras are made from wool or fur felt, which are tougher to stretch than cotton. There are three things to try and look out for when stretching a men’s or women’s fedora hat:

  • Lightly spritzing the material with lukewarm water, then using a blow dryer to dry the hat into shape works for most fedoras. Take care not to overdo the water, as it may cause shrinkage.
  • Check the sweatband of your fedora. If a shrunken sweatband is the reason why your hat feels too snug on your head lately, it’s probably time to replace your fedora. Replacing a sweatband is usually not worth the trouble, time, and cost it’ll take to make the hat just a tiny bit bigger.
  • If both of these options don’t work, try the steam method, which we’ll cover in detail below.
Knit hats

Beanies and other knitted hats are usually easy to stretch. Any hat made with cotton or other soft natural materials can be stretched with a little water and patient, gentle pulling.

When stretching knit hats, spray the hat with warm water until it’s damp, then gently pull on the fabric, working around the hat until the beanie is evenly stretched. It’s easy to overstretch knit hats, so make sure to keep your pulls soft and gentle to avoid overstretching.

Baseball caps

Baseball caps often stretch out as they get broken in. When you’re stretching a baseball cap, try wearing it for a couple weeks to see if it loosens up naturally over time.

If it still feels too snug after a while, here’s how to stretch a baseball cap: Soak the hat in some hot water, and wear it until it dries. This molds the hat to the shape of your head (not just your size!), making it a perfect fit for future wear.

If your baseball cap is made of polyester, however, this method may not be as successful.

Different stretching methods

There’s more than one way to stretch a hat. With the right tools, even a stiff, tight hat can be made to feel like it’s been tailor-made for you. Here are three of our favorite methods.

Each of these is low risk for most hat styles and helps your hat maintain its shape for a long time.

Soccer ball stretching

This is one of the least complicated and quickest methods of stretching a hat that doesn’t require any soaking or steaming beforehand.

Simply grab a youth-sized soccer ball (making sure it’s as similar in size and shape to your head as possible), and stretch your hat to fit it around the soccer ball. Leave the ball inside the hat overnight. Repeat this process as many times as necessary until the hat retains its new size.

Steaming

Steaming your hat is one of the best ways to stretch your hat into the right size by yourself. Low risk and almost always successful, steaming works with cotton and wool felt, and when done right, can even help stretch leather and straw.

Steaming hats gently encourages the hat material to loosen up and become more malleable. When it dries, the hat becomes molded to your head shape and size.

Here are the steps to steaming your hat into shape:

  1. Boil some water in a tea kettle or small pot.
  2. Hold your hat over the steam for a minute, then take it away for thirty seconds.
  3. Do this at least four times. This gives your hat material time to relax and be more flexible.
  4. Turn a blow dryer to the highest setting and blow dry the hat until it’s mostly dry.
  5. Put on your mildly damp hat and wear it until it dries completely.

Besides stretching and resizing, steaming a hat can also take away unwanted wrinkles and folds.

Using a hat stretching tool

A hat stretcher, such as a Hat Jack, can be your ultimate partner in stretching a fitted hat.

Here’s how to operate a Hat Jack for the best results:

  1. Place your hat on the Hat Jack as per instructions, then boil water for steam.
  2. Once the water boils, reduce heat and hold your hat over the steam.
  3. Crank the Hat Jack to expand the hat to the proper size for your head.
  4. Let your hat air dry for 20-30 minutes before removing it from the Hat Jack.

Repeat the process until your hat maintains the desired size and shape.

If a hat is being especially stubborn or if you're not comfortable stretching your hats on your own, find a local milliner to take care of your needs for you.

When your hat is too large

What if your hat’s too loose or large, instead of small and tight?

A hat sizer like this one is the perfect tool to add that extra padding between the sweatband and your head, ensuring a proper, comfortable fit.

Hat Sizer Adhesive padding to add to the inside of the hat

Timeless headwear by Brixton

Hats are essential to creating that particular flair for each outfit. Hats can be fitted to each unique wearer, down to the materials, colors, and accessories. But if the hat doesn’t fit the wearer’s head comfortably, hat-wearing becomes more of a nuisance than a pleasure.

Purchasing a hat that fits you well is the first step to an enjoyable hat experience. Our hat sizing guide goes over the basics of choosing the proper fit.

Remember, hats made from high-quality materials last longer and can withstand repeated adjustments.

The Australian wool and sustainably sourced fibers Brixton hats are made from are not only elegant and timeless, but resistant to damage yet flexible to mold to your head. Browse Brixton headwear to find that perfectly fitted hat today!

January 08, 2023
Tags: Education
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