Great Australian Hats

Author: Gracie  

If you’re Australian and you’re in your 40’s or younger, chances are you’ve been wearing some kind of broad brimmed hat or cap every time you've gone outside since you started kindy – if not before!
Yes, thanks to that fantastic hole in our ozone layer, a hat is an essential part of every day for those who work outdoors and those of us who just love being in the outdoors.

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to choosing a wide brimmed hat, but Australians have developed their own distinctive style, and it turns out the world loves it.
Most of the options out there fall in to one of three categories – they’re made from felt, leather, or some kind of plant fibre like straw, paper or raffia - or a synthetic version of straw, paper or raffia.

The most famous of Australian broad brimmed hats is the Akubra.

Primarily manufactured from rabbit fur felt, Akubra has been the hat of choice for our military for over 100 years, as well as gracing the heads of our Olympic teams, numerous sportspeople and celebrities, and iconic Australian characters. Think Lee Kernaghan, Crocodile Dundee, The Man from Snowy River. Who can forget that scene of Jim thundering down the terrible descent on his trusty brumby - hat intact?

So, how do you choose the right broad-brimmed hat?

Well, it really depends on when and where you are going to wear it. If you’re anything like me, you probably need at least three different ones!

Work Wear to Formal Wear - Felt Hats

Felt hats can take you anywhere from an outback sheep station to a wedding. Having said that, often those in the rural community will have a hat for work and a hat for ‘good’. They may even be identical; one will just be cleaner than the other! Or they’ll have a town hat (smaller brim) and a farm hat or station hat (wider brim). Typically made from wool or fur fibre, these hats are known for their durability and style, and for their ability to hold their shape. Subtle differences in the curve, dip, sweep or width of the brim, or the shape of the crown can completely change the way the hat looks. Try on a few if you can – in my experience you can tell straight away when you put the right one on that it’s the style for you! At Allingtons, we stock felt hats by Akubra, Thomas Cook,  Statesman, and Pure Western. 

The other thing to consider when you are looking at a felt hat is the type of sweatband that it has. This is the band inside the hat. Most felt hats have
a leather sweat band. The wonderful thing about these is that they will shrink with wear to conform to the shape of the wearer's head for a perfect fit. The thing is you need to allow space for this process. To start with, you establish your size as per your head measurement, then select the next size up (1cm larger). Initially, you may need to pack the band with plain folded tissues for a firm head fit. Once the band has shrunk to your perfect custom fit, you can remove them if you wish. Alternatively, you can purchase some Akubra Hat Fillers.

So, what other bands do these hats come with? Well, I’m glad you asked! The other type of sweatband is a fabric or buckram band. When you fit a hat with this type of band, you choose the fit that is comfortable – because it’s not going to change. The exciting thing with these hats is that most of them are designed to travel – not just on your head on in a box – in your backpack or suitcase! Yes! A hat that’s packable that will look just as fabulous when you get it out as it did when you packed it! Woohoo! More often than not, these hats are described as ‘crushable’. So, if you’re a keen traveller, one of these will probably suit you. Akubra and Thomas Cook both have a great range of travel hats. 

Water Baby & Sunseeker Wear - Straw, Paper, Raffia, Canvas & Synthetic Hats

If you’re a water baby and you love to be by the river or at the beach, one of these is probably more your style. They are all lightweight and tend to be cooler than a felt hat.

Straw hats tend to hold their shape but are softer and more flexible. Some are reshapable, some also have a wire edge to the brim so that you can shape them to your preference. These are definitely more of a relaxed, casual style, though some designs are positively classy! Some have a real cowboy influence; others are more of a sunseeker style. Again, children’s sizes tend to be a one-size-fits-most. Wrangler and Sunbody have some great options.

Raffia hats tend to be very flexible – as do synthetic hats. Think big, floppy beach hats – but don’t be fooled. If you pack one of these into your backpack, chances are it will never be the same again. (Says the voice of experience…) On the other hand, if your synthetic hat is a crocheted or knitted wide brim bucket hat – it’ll probably pack down just fine. These are definitely a casual hat for carefree, sunny days.

Canvas hats probably get the prize for being the most practical, lightweight and water resistant, and they also come with breathable mesh panels in the crown.

I've left paper hats till last... They are usually a fixed shape and are quite rigid – and they’re a true cowboy hat profile. Though they are lightweight and great in the heat, they are more than capable of taking you from the beach to a formal do without batting an eyelid. Usually with a leather sweatband, but sometimes also a one-size-fits-most deal with an elastic sweatband in children’s sizes.

The Take on Anything Accessory - Leather & Suede Hats

These are the tough guys of the hat world. Dare I say just about indestructible? Some are 100% leather; some have a mesh ‘breeze’ feature for better ventilation, some have pretty scarves on them. They have a 50+ UPF rating, and they’re water resistant. What more could you ask for? Some of these are even packable! So, whether you’re fishing, golfing, travelling or you want a fashion statement for the winter – Jacaru and Barmah will have you covered!

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