Sun & Skin News

The Search for the Perfect Hat

By Julie Bain • April 20, 2022
Easter parade movie

There’s nothing like an old movie to remind you of how great hats can be. This summer I rewatched the classic 1948 musical Easter Parade with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire (above), which is a gorgeous hat-stravaganza from start to finish. Sigh. It inspired me all summer long. Now that autumn has arrived (in fact, September is National Fall Hat Month), I need to renew my headwear motivation.

hat collection

If you’ve ever been treated for skin cancer, especially on your face (like me), you know the importance of a good hat. Nothing beats a physical barrier between your one-and-only face and those nasty UV rays. Sadly, we live in one of the few eras in human history where hats are not an obvious part of being well-dressed.

Yes, the fashion industry and celebrities (Beyoncé!) do their part. And growing awareness of the dangers of UV exposure have put more hat choices out there. Still, for a day of running errands in the city, you may not want a hat that makes you look like you should be on safari, trekking in the Himalayas, root, root, rooting for the home team or heading to church in the 1950s. You know that wide brims and tightly woven materials protect best. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends at least a three-inch brim all the way around. But those attributes won’t help if you don’t actually wear it.

I admit I’ve made some unfortunate hat purchases that mostly stayed unworn. I’ve also found a few that I rock regularly (see a few from my collection, left), and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. As with most fashion choices, it’s about fit, comfort, proportion and, maybe most of all, confidence. Let’s discuss.

4 Ways to Adjust Your Hatitude

Fit. If you see a cute hat in the store and stick it on your head and think it looks good, stop and think: Outside, the air moves. A brimmed hat that is too loose will fly off in even the faintest breeze, not to mention when on a boat or in a downtown wind tunnel. You need it to fit firmly, but not so firmly that it mashes your hair into an unrecognizable helmet. Look for a hat that fits just snugly enough to keep it attached but with some air between the crown of your head and the “roof” of the hat. You should be able to see out without having to push the hat back and expose yourself to more sun. Some have adjustable bands. Also, make sure you can still put on your UV-blocking sunglasses without bumping the hat.

Comfort. Finding the right fit is a key to your “comfort” zone. You don’t want a hat so tight it gives you a headache, or one so loose that’s you’re constantly holding onto it. You also don’t want loose straw poking your head or rough material where a nice soft lining or sweatband would be better served.

Proportion. This can be hard to judge. Ask opinions. Have someone take a photo of you in the hat and then study it. Do you look like you’re wearing a Halloween costume? Ready to appear in a play? Or do you look cool? You’ll know it when you see it.

Confidence. Ah, this is the trick for any new fashion element you bring into your life. Do you like the way that genuine made-in-Panama creation or whimsical woven bucket looks and feels? Then own it. They’re classics, like Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. Find the perfect rakish angle and start steppin’ out!

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