Bring Back the Hat: Straw Hat Maintenance and a Call to Charms!

Way back in the early 2000’s, I remember going to Woolworths/rich  in Athens, GA. (Athens historians, which was it? It was in the Beechwood Shopping Center…EDIT: It was a Stein-Mart) I was there to spend a gift certificate I had received and was kind of just browsing through the store. I found myself in the hat department and was trying on some looks when I was approached a woman who couldn’t have been younger than 80. With her beautiful, white hair teased to perfection and her lipstick applied just-so, I immediately recognized her as part of the old regime, a southern lady who practically oozed charm. She actually reminded me a lot of Coralie’s grandmother. She placed her hand on my shoulder, leaned in and purred,

“Daaahhling… Buy. Thaaaat. Hat. It’s fabulous and let me tell you…Men. Love. Hats.”

Although I ended up buying a pair of earrings that disappeared somewhere in the intervening years, that lovely lady’s words have never left me. What happened to hats? What happened to gloves? What happened to lovely, decorative accessories for the wardrobe? Some hats are functional. Some hats are more decorative. But, as of today, I’m declaring hats back IN.

In getting my wardrobe ready for the spring, I came upon a hat that I hadn’t worn in a few years. I hadn’t worn it because the last time I had, I had gotten it both sweaty and dirty. Not knowing how to clean a straw hat, I put it back in my closet to deal with later. Later turned into years until I decided that I was bringing that and (by extension) all hats back. The hat in question is one that I wore to the 2011  Hangout Music Festival  which happens to be in Gulf Shores, AL. At the time it was a sharp number that provided great sun protection.


This hat obviously saw a good time as it wound up on the lovely Bridget’s head at some point. Not only did it see a good time, but it also saw some sand, sweat, and some strawberry margarita slush.


stainedcrumplededitClearly, this hat needed some TLC or it was going to have to get donated.  Notice the sweat stains above. Gross, I know. But we always strive for realness at FTTDWYW.

Uggh. There’s the strawberry slush stains…


When I’m researching for ways to solve cleaning problems, my modus operandi is to search the internet, see several options and then choose what I feel to be the best one. All of the websites I saw agreed that the first thing to do, before trying any wet cleaning solvents, is to use a soft, bristled brush (like a toothbrush) and try to gently brush off as much debris as possible. Then wipe down the hat with a clean, damp cloth. The brush got off all the sand… as well as some strawberry gunk! The damp cloth did nothing and there were still residual stains, but the internet steered me towards an article titled, “How to Clean a Straw Stetson Hat“. It was one of the few articles that specifically mentioned cleaning WHITE straw hats. It’s suggestion of using a 1:1 ratio of hydrogen peroxide and warm water turned out to be the trick for both the hatband and the exterior. I concocted the solution (you guys know how much I love powerful cleaning solutions) and gently massaged it in with the toothbrush working in sections. The next step involves cleaning the solution off with water and then blotting it. I found the best way to blot was to blot from both sides of the fabric of the straw. i.e. covering both hands with a towel, grabbing a section of hat, and putting the hat between your hands and pressing.

Since the hat was also bent and wrinkled, I went back to the internet to find a way to reshape my hat. The majority of the websites mentioned steaming/ironing it. Now, I happen to be extremely fortunate to have inherited a steamer from a friend. This was a recent-ish acquisition and now that I have one, I will never go back to NOT having one. Not only does it destroy wrinkles on everything, but it is also great for steam-cleaning household items. The one I have is super reasonable price-wise and works great. Check it out! It’s in the Fun Things To Do While You’re Waiting Store! I stuffed the crown of my hat with a towel and steamed it until the wrinkles loosened. Next, I laid the brim of the hat on a towel, placed another layer of towel ON TOP of the brim and then used my iron on the steam function.


After all the cleaning, washing, steaming, and shaping, I was a little dubious of the results. But, then it dried. And voila! All the strawberry gunk is gone. The sweatband stain is barely visible and everything re-shaped nicely! All in all, I’m pretty pleased! I do think that my next step is to weave a wire into the edge of the brim to help it maintain more shape. But that’s another day and another project. Until then, looking forward to rocking this hat again on the beach this spring/summer.



And speaking of hats, I just have to share one more thing. I finally took a picture of the hat that I mentioned I had picked up on our recent trip to Vegas. It was really the only souvenir I got and I kind of love it. We found a haberdasher at The Venetian Casino shops and both Chiarita and I picked out great hats. So, I say to you again… lets bring back the hat!


Where should I go in my new hat? Do you have any hats in the back of your closet that need maintenance? Are you also smitten with hats and gloves? As always, let us know!



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  1. As a translucent being who loathes sunburns, I LOVE big straw hats. I have a black one with an SPF rating that’s so wide I barely fit through doors (I call it “Big Floppy”), and a more traditional/less flexible one with a giant black silk bow. My only complaint is not being able to pack them both on vacations. I usually roll or fold the black one up into a suitcase, so I might use your wire in the brim idea because it’s a bit misshapen.

    • This will come as no surprise, Becki… but I have started carrying my hats in my fabric, linen bags. I’ve started packing my hats by stuffing the crown with the t-shirts in my suitcase and trying to smartly pack around. Other than carrying old-skool hat boxes, I don’t know that there IS a good way to pack them.

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