Stretching a Tilley Hat??

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Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,162
965
Lancashire
OK, I've got an organic airflow version of the T5. It was a perfect fit when I bought it with the two fingers level of looseness. It kept my head cool because of the airflow and the gap at the rim. That was great until I washed it according to instructions. I stretched it out and wore it a few times before I worked out what was wrong. It had shrunk so I could not get one finger in between the rim and my head.

So since that time I've washed it quite a few times stretching it as much as I dare while still wet. It still goes back to being less than one finger loose. It's wearable but simply isn't fitting how it did when I bought it. I've just washed it today and stretched it between me and my partner. It was making kind of creaking or tearing noises. I only just managed to get one finger in and two almost. It's slightly more comfortable but I'll see what it's like when it's dry. Most likely tight again.

I have a few questions, is this something anyone else has experienced? Is it the organic cotton? Do the synthetic ones not shrink or shrink less? Anyone got any tips to try and salvage this Tilley hat I have? Any advice or suggestions?
 

Fadcode

Full Member
Feb 13, 2016
2,707
739
Cornwall
First thing,
Have you had your haircut?
Has your head gone bigger, noticeable when people call you "Big Head"
Did you dry it in a dryer? much better naturally dried.
Did you try it on when still wet, to determine that it dries smaller

The hat is guaranteed for life, so if there is a defect, you can send it back
have you tried wearing it when it's wet, rather than trying to stretch it.
I must admit when it's hot, and I am out and about, a quick drench of the hat to cool down, will make it a bit bigger, until it dries out.
Had mine for years, without any problems, still like new when washed.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,162
965
Lancashire
Just been looking at their hats. Might try buying one of them. They have a wire in the brim which allows better shaping. My Tilley is a bit too floppy and shapeless for my liking. There's a few hat stretchers around. Wish the Tilley didn't need stretching. I think it's an issue with cotton. Cotton is prone to shrinking quite a bit especially if the cotton is cheap.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,162
965
Lancashire
My head hasn't got bigger because I've got a cap that's the original size of the Tilley. It still fits as when I bought it. I bought it in the same year as the Tilley after leaving it at home.

It's the smaller size when worn straight after washing and after drying. Even if stretched so it's looser when wet. The drying in the air outside hanging from a clothes line from its wind cord and a peg usually. Otherwise it's dried from an indoor clothes airer. Although I've also dried it over a radiator that drying method gives the same result as drying any other way.

Hair cut makes no difference the hair doesn't add 2cm to my head besides as above another hat doesn't have this issue it's purely a Tilley issue. Or rather my Tilley issue. Could it be the organic cotton? Most probably don't buy the organic version. I only did it because it was the only option in a T5 and that colour in the shop when I'd made the decision to buy one.

I'm surprised wetting yours will make it bigger when Tilley basically say washing shrinks it because they tell you to stretch it when wet. Also cotton does shrink in clothing and fabric when wet, it's a property of the material.
 

Fadcode

Full Member
Feb 13, 2016
2,707
739
Cornwall
Hope you don't mind me saying this, but Tilley recommend you stretch the hat when it's dry, not when it's wet, basically stretching it on your knee till it fits.
As you have an Organic one maybe the instructions are different.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,162
965
Lancashire
The instructions that came with my hat said when wet, but I stretch it repeatedly through the drying process and have tried stretching it when dry several times. Simply goes back to the smaller size. Annoying because it was ok until the first wash which was on a short 30 degrees delicates cycle as per instructions.

It's a £70+ hat, I've tried everything I can think of to get it back to its original level of comfort. When it feels like it's worked a little bit I wear it and hour later it's smaller again. I reckon cotton Tilleys aren't as good as nylon ones. At least the nylon ones don't shrink.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,162
965
Lancashire
My stretching method is two hands holding the inside of the hat band at one end usually the front with the other end hooked on my knee. I've also tried with a hand at each end but the knee method seems to give better grip and forming. Just doesn't work.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,162
965
Lancashire
I'm close to contacting Tilley for a replacement and one in nylon if they'll do it. There's got to be a fault with this hat because I've not seen anyone with this issue online before. People rate the hats in cotton so highly that it has to be my hat having a rare defect somehow. I've followed all Tilley advice without success. It's simply went to a smaller size after first cool wash. The other point is that the crown is stretched when I'm wearing it so stretching the band alone doesn't work.
 

Danceswithhelicopters

Full Member
Sep 7, 2004
490
47
Scotland
I gave up on tne canvas Tilleys as they shrank too much. The Tweed ones not so much. I suppose its the nature of cotton canvas that it will shrink from new... Anyone remember wetting canvas tents a few times when new to tighten the weave up?

Like you I have a big head and figured out I'd have to buy a hat 2 sizes bigger for it to shrink to the optimum fit. As you say this is an expensive journey of discovery on a Tilley hat so I flogged mine on eBay and went for plain material boonie hat style.
 

C_Claycomb

Mod
Mod
Oct 6, 2003
6,616
1,558
Bedfordshire
I have talked to Tilley on this issue. Tilley are not guaranteed against shrinkage for life. Nor against being the wrong size.

I had a regular cotton Tilley which was bought, possibly a little tight, but looser than my previous hat, and it shrank to the point I could not stretch it to be comfortable. I sold it.

My experience with all hats is that they shrink when wet, whether that is washing, or enough days in the rain. With the first hat I had that did this, I made my own hat stretcher using some scrap wood and fence wire turnbuckle. It certainly stretched the hat, I put the hat on it wet and left it stretched while it dried.

Interesting aside - always try hats on, never remove tags unless 100% happy, check size with dress-maker's tape measure.

Either the nylon Tilley hats can shrink, or Tilley changed their sizing, or one of my nylon hats was mislabeled. After the problems with the cotton hat shrinking, I bought a nylon one and have been very happy, right up to the point I did something stupid and stained it. It was a 7 5/8 which measured 61.3cm inside, is right in the middle of stated Tilley range. I was given a Tilley voucher for a replacement as a gift and ordered through their website. The hat was marked the same size but was so loose that I could not bring myself to wear it and left it with tags on for about a year. Should have sent it back. Unfortunately I made a real effort to like it, as it was a gift, and took off the tags, wore if for a day and found it really, really didn't fit. Only then used a measure around the inside, 63.7, which is two sizes bigger than Tilley's size chart said a 7 5/8 should be.

As it was not a recent purchase and the tags were off Tilley would not accept it for a return/replacement. Tilley did sent me a little sew-in packing piece to reduce the size.

Multiple lessons learned.
 
Last edited:

Wildgoose

Full Member
May 15, 2012
505
192
Middlesex
I’d get in touch with them mate, their customer service is pretty good and they’ve been known to replace hats pretty quickly
 

Dogoak

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jan 24, 2009
2,156
173
Cairngorms
Its maybe worth a try to get it wet and then let it dry stretched over something round, I’ve used bowls and saucepans in the past.
 

SSGN_Doc

Tenderfoot
Jan 26, 2021
62
101
51
WA, USA
When I would wash my uniform covers (hats), I had a item known as a cover block. It was sheet metal and adjustable to different hat sizes. I would take my cover out of the wash and let it dry overnight on the cover block. Once dry, the size was set.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 14, 2008
5,162
965
Lancashire
Well yesterday I washed it again and stretched it with help. Two of us pulling in opposite directions. A little rip sound and left it to dry. I tried it when dry this morning and it seemed a little looser. Loose enough to wear. So I did.

Cloudy day with a little breeze. I had never noticed a breeze go through the airflow mesh before. My head was cold for a bit of the time when the wind was blowing strongest. There was a gap around the bottom but a finger gap only. Perhaps that's why. The only thing was I had an unusual headache afterwards. Not sure it's hat related or not. I have a wool beanie that gives me a headache when my hair is close to cutting day. That's tighter than normal hats I own. Full stretch with my longer length hair before the cut. Now I'm a week or two from a very short COVID cut so it's not hair that's making things tighter.

I can see now how good the Tilley airflow hat can be. I'm tempted by a similar airflow T5 in nylon. Just need to check that size. When I got this Tilley I was measured with the shop paper Tilley measuring piece. I was 7 1/2 or 60cm. Trying it on I felt it was tight and the two fingers was not possible. I tried 7 5/8 and it was right in the shop. That's 61cm. Measuring with a string and metal tape measure against the string length I got 60cm.. in most hat sizes (3 size ranges), that's l/xl up to 61cm. I have an outdoor research cap in that size and it's tight as I could get away with. Some days too tight. I have a Rohan XL cap and it's loose. They had XL/XXL size I think.

I think I can be 60 to 61 possibly 62cm too. Hats are not really exact sizes in outdoor hats I think. Buying a bowler you'd be ok I think but flexible hats are a little variable?

Right now I'm not sure whether to risk a nylon airflow T5 or try a tarp hat instead. They have a shapeable rim wire. The Tilley weakness for me it's cotton shrinkage and no formability of the rim. It goes wavey on mine just like the really wide, floppy hot sun hats like v5 brimmer from North Face. Well not as bad but still with a wave around the rim edge. I've heard good things about the tarp hat before. However i heard the same good things about Tilley cotton hats too.
 

Sazquatch

New Member
Aug 13, 2021
1
0
39
Rochester, NY
Same problem here, I recently bought two Airflow hats, the same size, one for my dad too. his fit just right, mine was too big. So I sent it back for the next size smaller; WAY too small! So I switched to a T3 in the original size, the one that my dad got that fit me great, and it's *still* too small. I was sick for a while after the last order, and now Tilley says the return window has closed I'm SOL. I emailed them about it, but haven't heard back. And the T3 is one that's made in Canada, which many buyers say is a higher quality, or at least more consistent. Very disappointing and frustrating.

I'd be interested in stretching it, but it's cotton/canvas so any stretch is going to shrink when I wash it I'm worse than where I started.
 

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