I was never a hat person until I started hunting.  Wearing a blaze orange hat is a requirement* for hunting in Missouri.

However, it turns out that a hat is functional beyond making me visible to other hunters.  For one thing, it keeps you warm.  Keeping your head warm will do more to preserve body heat than anything else you can do.  If you wear the right kind of hat, it can keep the elements off of you head.  I became a believer in wide brim hats the day it started raining one-inch rain drops while I was rabbit hunting.  I was wearing a boonie hat that day, which wasn’t the most ideal thing for the heavy rain, but it did fairly well, and the benefit was instantly obvious.

My favorite hunting hat now is a blaze orange crushable felt outback hat.

In recent years, I have tried to incorporate hats into my non-hunting routine.  I have settled on a couple of wide brim hats for keeping the rain and snow off my head.  I have a safari hat made of sealed garment leather, which is a good match for my leather jacket.  I also have a black crushable felt outback hat much like the orange one.  Wearing either one with a rain repellent jacket is essentially as good as carrying an umbrella.

A few years ago, I bought a wide brim straw hat to keep the sun off.  I was planning a road trip through the desert, and I wanted to be prepared for a hike through the desert in case my vehicle broke down.  Finding a good straw hat turns out to be difficult if you want something with some style but don’t really want a cowboy hat.  I settled on something that was like an extra-wide safari hat, with a completely flat brim.  I didn’t break down, but the hat proved useful elsewhere on my trip, especially in Arizona at the Grand Canyon.  I’ve worn the hat many times since.  Keeping the sun off is pretty useful, especially at the outdoor shooting range.  I took the hat with me last year on my disastrous camping trip in Texas.  During the haste of my evacuation, I ended up dumping a bunch of gear on top of it and crushing it.  It became badly deformed, and some of the straw was broken.  I decided it was a lost cause, and I planned to buy a replacement, but I didn’t throw it away.

When the weather begins to get warm again, I am going to shave my head.  I unquestionably have my father’s bald spot, and it has gotten bad enough to be unattractive.  For most of my life, I had planned to deal with it by shaving my head.  I would have done it last year, but my hair stylist reacted as if I was discussing suicide, and she convinced me to try some product they had in the salon for promoting hair growth.  The product did nothing, and months later I’m still in the same position.  So anyway, once I shave my head, hats are going to be more important than ever.  In preparation, I thought I should do something about my straw hat situation.

I haven’t found a replacement in the local stores.  The store that sold the first one to me didn’t have any more.  Today I thoroughly searched the internet.  Hats just like mine are available (for more money than I remember paying before), but what I really want is an outback hat.  I searched high and low, and I couldn’t find one I liked.  Straw outback hats, yes, but not with a brim as wide as I want.  Leather outback hats with four-inch brims, yes, but they’ll be unbearably hot to wear in the sun.  I started looking at custom hat makers.  That lead me to videos of hat makers showing how they make their hats.  Then I started to think about making my own straw hat, and I looked for videos on how to do that.

And I learned how hats are shaped: with steam.  Not just by the manufacturer.  Some cowboy hat stores (?) buy hats that are unshaped, and they shape them in the store according to the customer’s specific preference.  I watched a video of a man doing this, using nothing more than a steamer and his hands.  If he can do that, can I reshape my crushed straw hat?

It turns out that I can.  I boiled some water in a pot with a lid that is vented on one side, and I used it to soften the parts of the hat I wanted to reshape.  I got the crease out of the brim.  I more or less unmangled the rest.  The broken straw is still broken, but it blends in much better now.  I even managed to give the brim an outback curve, which it hadn’t had before.  It isn’t perfect.  It still looks a bit dilapidated.  I am currently thinking about how I can make it better.  However, it looks good enough to wear again.  For free.

(* It is required during the regular firearms deer season, but it is not required for most other hunting in Missouri.  Nevertheless, it is a very good idea for most other hunting situations, especially upland game hunting in close groups.)