I must confess I've never been much of a hat person -- I struggle to find a hat that looks flattering on me. But I also burn in the sun so a summer hat has now become a necessity.
One of the questions clients often ask me is what style of sun hat should I wear? Here's my 3-point checklist for selecting the perfect sun hat for you.
1. Fit: There are several factors that go into making sure a hat is the right fit for your head. The hat size is determined by the hat's inner circumference and it is important that you choose the size that fits the circumference of your head. But you'll also want to pay attention to the height of the crown and the width of the brim since these are also important features in determining the right "fit" of hat for you.
Hat Size: Women's heads typically range from 21 inches to 23 inches in circumference. To determine what "size" of hat you need, begin by measuring the circumference of your head using a soft measuring tape. It may be helpful to have someone else measure for you.
Start at the middle of your forehead (this is the fullest part of your head, and it's also where most hats will sit), and wrap the measuring tape around your head. Make sure to hold it firmly, but don't pull too tightly. You want a snug fit with your hat, not a tight one. Round up to the nearest 1/8th.
If your head measures:
21 1/8 to 21 1/2 inches you will need a small hat size ( sold as 6 3/8 to 6 7/8)
21 7/8 to 22 1/4 inches you will need a Medium hat size (sold as 7 - 7 1/8 )
22 5/8" - 23 inches you will need a Large hat size (sold as 7 1/4 - 7 3/8)
If your head circumference is smaller than 21 1/8" then you should look at youth sizes. If your head circumference is larger than 23" you will need to source a hat company that makes XL and XXL hats for women.
Always double check each hat maker's measurements before purchasing as some hats may not be designed according to these listed standard measurements (a Japanese hat maker, for example, may scale their hats smaller than a North American hat maker).
Brim Size: Pay attention to proportions. If your face is small, don't overpower yourself with too wide of a brim and if your face is large, look for styles with more width.
The brim on a wide brimmed hat should be no wider than the width of your shoulders so that it doesn't overwhelm you.
Crown Height: The taller the crown of the hat, the taller it will make you appear and the longer it will make your face appear. The shorter the crown of the hat, the shorter your face will appear and the shorter you will appear. So think about whether you want to emphasize or minimize the length of your face and your overall height and choose your crown height accordingly. And some times it's fun to play with different looks.
The hat you will need poolside may be very different from the hat you need to go in swimming or bike riding or to a friend's outdoor wedding. One hat does not fit all functions so it's important to create a list of what you need from each hat you purchase for a specific activity or event. Here are some key questions to ask: What activity will you be doing? Will there be wind? Do you need a good peripheral vision? Will it be hot? Once you have determined the necessary functions you can select your hat accordingly.
If UV protection is paramount, look for hats that are made from a sun-protection fabric. A wide-brimmed hat will provide protection when the sun is directly overhead (mid-day) but for early morning and late afternoon sun you'll need a brim that slants down in the front and also covers the back of your neck for adequate sun protection.
If you need added protection against insects, look for a hat that has a fine netting to protect you while hiking or gardening.
Planning to swim (not sit) at the pool. Look for a swim hat with UV protection.
And last (but certainly not least) make sure that the color & style are flattering on you. This is where knowing your Seasonal colors & style lines will really make a difference. For certain utility hats you may not have a wide variety of choices when it comes to color or style, but if it's a hat you'll wear often or for dressing up it may well be worth it to visit some specialty hat stores to find one that really flatters you in both color and style.
When it comes to straw hats, ribbon bands can easily be replaced with a more flattering color by your local milliner or you may even be able to swap it out yourself. Or add some silk flowers, a large bow, a pretty brooch, some fabric trim or beading to personalize a basic hat so that it expresses your style personality.
The best thing is to try on a LOT of hats until you find a style and look that you love. Then make any tweaks needed to reflect your seasonal style personality.
And don't limit yourself to just one hat -- make sure you have a good collection to cover all of your different needs.