Making hat wearing a habit (and loving it)

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Despite Australia having one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world, less than half of adults wear hats.

A fear of “hat hair” (can relate) is a big reason, according to the Cancer Council, but maybe you’re just struggling to find the perfect match, or simply can’t get into the habit of wearing a one.

As a non-hat-wearer myself, writing a story convincing you why hats are cool seemed pretty hypocritical.

So I asked hat-mad TV and radio presenter Yumi Stynes — and some hatastic experts to help me out.

Yumi Stynes stands in front of a yellow door in her favourite brown felt hat
IMAGEYumi Stynes bought this fave in London several years ago.(Supplied)

And when Yumi described her favourite hat as “charismatic”, I knew I’d be shopping for my own before too long.

Choosing the right style of hat

Yumi has loved hats since she was a child.

“I don’t know when it started but I actually feel more comfortable with a hat on than off. Without one I feel quite weird,” she says.

Her go-to is an everyday men’s trilby she purchased at a store in London where Charlie Chaplin was hatted.

“I wanted to invest in an experience like that … it was on sale, but still a lot in pounds, but I scale these things on a cost-per-wear,” she says.

(OK, so I’ve been missing out on some serious hat romance here.)

Woman with short hair wears a bucket hat and smiles
IMAGEMaking a bucket hat with short hair look good is possible!(Unsplash: Lungelo Hadebe)

She also loves how hats give her a “presence” boost.

“It might be short person syndrome. It doesn’t increase my height but increases my aura and the volume of me!”

But be warned, hats can swallow you up if you go too grand.

“For a smaller head, most people are comfortable with a shorter brim,” says milliner Penelope Haddrill from central west NSW.

The larger the head, the bigger the brim. The taller the person, the higher the crown.

“Only certain people — tall people — can wear a high crown,” Ms Haddrill says.

And don’t be deterred if you try on a bunch of hats and nothing sings straight away.

Michael Albert making hats in his workshop in Fitzroy
IMAGEMichael Albert making hats in his workshop in Fitzroy.(Supplied: Michael Albert)

Michael Albert from a popular hat shop in Fitzroy believes customisation is key.

“Some hats are close but are missing that almost indefinable something — they’re no cigar,” he says.

Mr Albert will usually make alterations to achieve someone’s “perfect signature look”.

“As little as tweaking the brim and changing the tilt can be enough — or we re-shape, re-size or re-trim as required.”

Have different hats for different occasions

Yumi takes a selfie with two of her children on a hike
IMAGEYumi has a cap for adventures like hiking.(Instagra: Yumi Stynes)

Despite wearing them all the time, Yumi isn’t a collector of hats.

She has just three in rotation to suit her different needs.

Her cap for daily training keeps her hair out of her face, and another for outdoor activity like hiking protects her from the sun.

“I’m really not vain, but if I were to be vain about one element of myself it would be my skin,” she says. “I like to protect it.”

Yumi is also sensitive to bright light.

“It’s not a very sexy reason but … wearing a hat allows me to have more control over how the light hits my eyes. I’m quite sensitive to where I sit a room because I get a headache from bright lights.”

Don’t know where to start?

Mum holding son, both wearing hats
IMAGEIncluding children in the hat-shopping experience can help them get excited about wearing one.(Pexels: Victoria Borodinova)

Think about your lifestyle and be realistic about what kind of hat would suit that.

For something that looks smart and is comfortable, Ms Haddrill recommends a fedora or panama in straw for summer, and felt for winter.

“The straw is really good for every day — it’s light and cool,” she says.

“For winter, I prefer my felts and generally autumn and spring a nice white felt is really good.”

Ms Haddrill likes hats that are dressy enough to be worn at events like the races, but still low-key enough for everyday wear.

“Fifteen years ago I was just doing race wear and you spend $300-plus on a hat just for one day,” she says.

“With a 12-centimetre brim panama [for example], you can wear it to events and every day.” 

Getting in the habit of wearing a hat

Rather than fearing hat hair, Yumi relishes the five minutes she saves from not doing her hair at all — and covering it up instead.

Now she’s speaking my language.

Faceless portrait of someone wearing a red hat in the country
IMAGEHats can help you make a statement (or blend in).(ABC Open)

Yumi has a rack of hooks at the doorway of her home to make sure she rarely leaves home without her hat.

“If you’re a busy woman and you can find your hat, it’s such a timesaver — chuck it on your head and make no apologies.”

To get in the headspace of wearing a hat regularly, Yumi compares it to quitting smoking.

Stay with me.

“One day you just have to make that decision and say ‘I’m not a non-smoker’,” she says.

“It helped me quit smoking to think of myself as a non-smoker and the hat thing is the same — ‘today onwards I’m a hat wearer’.”

Ultimately, if it feels good on your head, you’re more likely to wear it.

I can also highly recommend finding a hat-loving buddy to help you out when planning your new hatted style. 

Yumi and I bonded over the fact we both have huge heads and are now texting about our next hat purchases.

Woman laughing wearing a hat and holding a camera
IMAGEYou’ll be this happy when you find your perfect hat match.
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