How to Reshape a Straw Hat in a Few Simple Steps

Panama hats, floppy sun hats, boater hats, Western-style hats—everyone loves a good straw hat. But as stylish and versatile as they are, straw hats are vulnerable to being squashed, folded, or bent out of shape.


If you’re considering letting go of a favorite straw hat because of its misshapen form, hold that thought—it’s quite easy to restore your straw hat to its full sartorial glory. Straw is, after all, a pretty malleable material.


Keep reading this guide for instructions on how to reshape a straw hat with just a few basic household items and plenty of tips to keep that hat in good form for future wear.

straw beach hat with "do not disturb" on brim

Photo via Emma Does Fashion


How are straw hats made?

Traditionally speaking, making straw hats is an artisan craft. In fact, the art of weaving Ecuadorian toquilla straw hats (Panama hats) has even been awarded a cultural heritage designation by UNESCO.


As far as materials go, the type of “straw” in any given straw hat may actually be as varied as dried wheat, toquilla straw, other palm fibers, braided hemp or raffia, or even synthetic materials.


The dried natural fibers are steamed or submerged in hot water so that they soften and become more pliable. An artisan weaves and shapes the hat by hand or with a mold. As the hat air dries, the fibers tighten, and the straw hat retains its shape.


Types of straw hats

There’s truly a straw hat for everyone! Here are some of the most well-known straw hat styles.


Boater hats

Boater hats feature a flat-topped crown, flat brim, colored band, and a wide, patterned weave. Venetian gondoliers wear a hat in this style.


The thick band is typically one solid color a the rim of the hat is lined in the same color to match.


Bucket hats

Bucket hats have a large, rounded crown and a soft, downward brim that shields the face. Straw bucket hats are often made with a chunkier, looser weave.


Buntal hats

This hat style originated as farmers’ hats in the Philippines and is woven with fibers from the Buri palm. Traditional buntal hats are wide-brimmed, circular hats with soft crowns.


More contemporary takes feature a narrower brim and teardrop crown shape, often with one edge turned up, similar to a fedora.


Conical hats

Another style of a wide-brimmed straw hat found prominently across Asia is the conical hat. The cone shape offers broad sun protection and the hat's instantly recognizable by its distinctive, pointed crown.


Salakot hats are a style of Filipino conical hats with a more rounded top and varied weave pattern.


Floppy hats

Also known as “big brim” hats, floppy straw hats are a popular choice for shading the face at the beach. A rounded crown gives way to a wide, unstructured brim that swoops and curves.


Panama hats

Panama hats are something of a misnomer as they’re actually produced in Ecuador, where the palms from which the toquilla straw is sourced grow exclusively.


Panama hats come in two styles: one with the classic pinched crown, a thick band, and a tight herringbone weave. The other with a softer, broader brim and looser weave (but made from the same toquilla straw).


Western hats

These come in both structured, fixed shapes or with wide brims that are more malleable, as they feature a wire inside—all the better to get that classic “taco roll” look of cowboy lore.

steamer shaping black straw hat

Photo via Christina Joann


How to reshape a straw hat with a steamer

If your beloved straw hat gets bent out of shape, you can fix the problem with a steamer. Warm steam softens the straw so it becomes malleable and the hat can be reshaped.


Tools and Materials Needed

  • Garment steamer
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Bowl
  • Clean rag or hand towel
  • Weights (such as jarred or canned pantry items, books, water bottles, etc.)


1. Heat the steamer on low

Turn on the steamer to its lowest heat setting.


2. Steam the hat

Hold the hat 6 to 8 inches from the source of the steam and rotate the hat so that the steam permeates the natural fibers for one to two minutes, focusing on the area of the brim or crown that needs to be reshaped.


Flip the hat over and steam for another one to two minutes. Consider wearing gloves to protect your hands from the steam.


3. Reshape the hat

While the straw is malleable, correct any out-of-place divots or bends with your hands.


Place the hat on an overturned bowl, which can serve as a mold as you reshape the crown. Once you’ve corrected the shape of the crown, stuff the hat’s cavity with a clean rag to preserve the shape.


For the brim, lay the straw hat on a flat surface (such as a counter). Press the brim flat on the counter with your hands, working out the kinks in the straw. Hold the hat brim flat with light weights and allow the hat to air dry.


How to reshape a straw hat with an iron and a towel

Your straw hat got all crumpled in your suitcase, and you don’t have a steamer on hand to get the kinks out and return the hat to its original shape. Now what?


Luckily, most hotel rooms are equipped with the few things you need to reshape a straw hat. Here’s what you need and how to do it.


Tools and Materials Needed

  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Washcloth or small towel
  • Weights (such as jarred or canned pantry items, books, water bottles, etc.)


1. Heat the iron

Turn on the iron and set it to its lowest heat setting. Set your hat, brim down, on the ironing board.


2. Iron the brim

Lightly dampen a washcloth or small towel; lay it out on a section of the brim.


Iron the brim, taking care at all times to keep the cloth or towel between the iron and the delicate straw fibers of the hat. Rotate the straw hat, moving the cloth or towel each time, until the entire brim has been ironed.


If you’re looking to add shape to the brim—such as adding waves to a floppy beach hat or “taco rolls” to a Western hat—shape the brim with your hands while it’s still warm and damp.


3. Weigh the hat down to dry

If a flat brim is the goal, lay several objects on the brim to keep it from curling up as it dries. Let the hat air dry for at least an hour.


If you’re trying to fix the straw hat’s crown shape, try rolling, wetting, and shaping a hand towel to act as a mold. Fit the straw hat upside down on the mold, pressing it into shape, and then let it dry.

straw hat with light pink bow

Photo via Emma Does Fashion


Tips for keeping a straw hat in shape

To keep a straw hat in shape, you’ll need to care for it the right way. Here are some top straw hat care tips:


Avoid over-handling

While a straw hat may feel sturdy, at the end of the day, when dried, woven straw is a fairly delicate construction. Avoid curling or flexing the hat, which makes the straw fibers more prone to breakage.


Don’t touch the brim

When you take the hat off, grab it by the cap that fits over your head instead of by the brim. If you’re constantly grabbing different parts of the brim, it’s more likely a section will pinch or distort over time.


Keep out of the rain

Seeing as steam is the number one tool for helping to reshape straw hats, it makes sense that a fully drenched straw hat is all but guaranteed to misshapen. Save your straw hats for a non-rainy day.


Store in a hatbox

There are boxes made specifically for storing hats! Not only will a hatbox protect your straw hat from getting unintentionally squashed in the closet, but it also keeps dust at bay.


Store on a mannequin

Or, why not store your straw hat by putting it on display? These plain canvas bases help hold the shape of hats or wigs. Just be sure to keep the hat and mannequin head out of direct sunlight.


Secure with a few long hat pins inserted through the hat's brim and into the canvas base.


Apply a protective coating

Apply one to two coats of a straw hat stiffening spray, following the manufacturer’s instructions and allowing 24 hours to fully dry before wear.


Or, DIY your own straw hat spray by dissolving 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in 2 cups of cold water. Pour into a clean spray bottle and apply.


Have you successfully reshaped a beloved straw hat? Let us know about it in the comments!

The author may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page.

Comments
Join the conversation
Next