How to Stretch a Fitted Hat

Naima T. Fleming
Man wearing baseball cap

Men's dress and casual hats come in all shapes, sizes and styles. Whether your taste leans towards a trendy fedora, an athletic style, or a classic felt design, size is important for prolonged comfortable wear and fit. To ensure that your hat is as comfortable as possible, you might need to stretch it out a bit.

Directions for How to Stretch a Fitted Hat

If you have a hat that's just a tad bit too tight, you may wonder how to stretch a fitted hat. Hat stretching can work wonders providing the fabric content has resiliency and give. A cotton or a natural fiber hat is the easiest to stretch.

With a Spray Bottle

A simple method you can try if you want to reshape and stretch your hat for your head is with a spray bottle of water.

  1. Fill a spray bottle with water.
  2. Lightly spray your entire hat.
  3. Use your hairdryer to dry the hat partially; use a high heat setting but don't completely dry it.
  4. Put the hat on while still damp and wear it throughout the day. As the hat dries, it will take the form of your head.

Ball Method

The following method can help you reshape and resize a hat and just uses a common soccer ball. While you can stretch the hat while dry using this method, adding water allows it to stretch further.

  1. Wet the hat thoroughly with water.
  2. Place the hat around a youth sized soccer ball.
  3. Place the hat on the ball in front of a heater (do not leave unattended) and allow to dry thoroughly.
  4. Once the hat is dry, it should slip off the ball with ease, and the shape and give should be restored.

Use Steam

You can also try steaming your hat to reshape and resize for your head.

  1. Boil water in a pot or tea kettle.
  2. Place the inside of the hat above the steam.
  3. Remove the hat from the steam for a few seconds and repeat several times.
  4. The repeated steaming may cause your hat to be wet. If so, lightly dry with a hair dryer on a high temperature.
  5. Now, put the hat on while still damp and wear during the day. As the hat dries, it will take the form of your head.

Simple Stretch

Another simple way to make a tight hat a bit looser is by manually stretching.

  1. Grab the hat firmly by the crown.
  2. Place the hat over the knee and pull firmly.
  3. Repeat if needed.

This works best for hats that are just slightly too tight and is a good method for baseball caps.

Method Using a Hat-Stretcher

In addition to the spray bottle, steam, water/soccer ball method, and simple pulling, you can also get a more relaxed fit by using a basic hat stretcher. Hat stretchers can be purchased from hat stores like Village Hats, or a retailer like Amazon.

Here's how to stretch a hat using the stretcher:

  1. Place the hat stretcher inside of your desired hat.
  2. Then you turn the middle section, which acts as a crank of sorts, until there is no give left at the end.
  3. Many hat stretchers have steam inside the band that absorbs the moisture from the inside of your hat. When you turn the crank your are releasing this steam.
  4. The combination of the steam and the cranking can allow certain hats to be stretched up to two full sizes.
  5. You can also store your stretcher inside your hat between wearings to ensure it maintains its natural shape.

Tips for Specialty Hats

Many vintage hats are smaller in size, yet their sharp and polished lines keep them in fashion demand. If you have your heart set on sporting a family heirloom, or have fallen in love with a unique hat you've found at a vintage shop, you may decide to take your hat to a millinery shop where a professional milliner can resize the hat if possible. Adding fabric or adornment to the hat and restructuring the shape may make a slim-fitting hat a wearable piece.

Keep in mind not all hats are meant to be stretched. Fabrics such as silk, cashmere, and suede should never get wet, so take great care before you decide to stretch these pieces. Depending on the specific hat style and fabric, you may be able to use non-water methods, such as manual stretching, which is possible for beret-style hats. Using careful concentrated steaming at the seams along with a hat stretcher is also a viable method for some brimmed leather hat styles.

Hats Off

With a little effort, a hat can usually be stretched just enough for comfortable wear. To prolong the shape and life of a hat, make sure you store it properly when not in use and avoid tossing it on the floor or in a pile. To prevent fading, keep hats out of the sun and the elements of wind and rain. Additionally, to keep them presentable, most hats can be spot cleaned as needed. Taking proper care of your hats is just one way to ensure their comfort and fit long-term.

How to Stretch a Fitted Hat