If you want to maintain that optimal look and feel of your favourite leather hat, you can follow this simple guide to help keep it looking at its absolute best. Leather hats are a much-loved, iconic style known for their unrivalled durability and versatility. Available in a variety of styles from outback bush hats through to Italian made flat caps, leather hats have seemingly always had a way of bringing out the wearer’s unique individuality. But to help maintain their natural durability and all-round versatility, it is recommended to occasionally pay a little care and attention with some basic maintenance routines. Wearing your hat on a regular basis can increase the likelihood of it becoming stained, scuffed; even dehydrated, but with the appropriate maintenance and proper storage, your trusted leather hat should serve you well for many years. In this article, we’ll guide you through the basics of caring for leather hats to help ensure they always remains in peak condition.
Tanned Leather Hats
Tanned leather refers to any hat which has undergone the tanning process of treating skins or hides to produce the finished leather product. The most common leathers used in Australia to make hats mainly come from cattle but kangaroo leather is also popular because of its strength and flexibility. To help maintain maximum protection from the elements, it is advisable to periodically treat your leather hat with a good quality leather protector most commonly found in the forms of leather creams and conditioners. These treatments help repel water, and also help prevent your favourite hat from becoming overly dehydrated.
Wearing your leather hat for prolonged periods, particularly in harsh sunlight conditions, can also cause the leather to split if not sufficiently maintained. If your hat is exposed for long periods of time in adversely hot conditions, the application of a suitable conditioning agent will help prevent the leather from drying out. If desiccation does occur, it can be detrimental to the extent that it irreversibly changes the fibrous structure of the leather itself. But regardless of how often or in which environments you wear your hat, it’s still recommended to apply leather conditioner using a lint-free cloth at least every 2-3 months to help preserve its natural durability and original looks.
It is recommended that the conditioner be applied to the lint-free cloth, not directly onto the leather itself. Tip: do not overload the cloth as using too much conditioner may prevent the leather from breathing properly and potentially harm its natural fibres. Use gentle circular motions over the hat starting with the crown. This will allow you to handle the hat by the brim as you do so. Once the whole hat has been treated, it can be gently buffed with a soft, dry cloth and allowed to dry indoors at normal room temperature away from direct sunlight. Warning: do not leave to dry outdoors in the sunshine or by using any artificial heat source. This can cause the hat to stiffen and distort irrevocably.
Suede Leather Hats
Although suede leather hats are not quite as durable as their full-grain, traditional leather counterparts, they are known for being softer to the touch and slightly more lightweight to wear. Their naturally smooth nap gives the suede hat its alluring appearance which makes it especially popular with those who appreciate its comfort and distinct appeal. Being lighter than regular full-grain, suede is also a typically more malleable form of leather, and, if properly cared for, will last for an exceptionally long time. Whilst its unique softness and pliability do make suede a popular choice, its textured structure and open pores also make it more prone to attracting dirt and absorbing liquids more easily. Therefore, to avoid this, it’s advisable to minimize as far as possible the risk of allowing your hat to come into contact with water. It’s worth noting that suede is naturally absorbent and heavy rain or excessive exposure to liquid can irreparably destroy its natural structure.
Cleaning and Maintenance
The most important thing to note is that the same creams and conditioners used to treat regular leather should not be used on suede. Those treatments are specific to full-grain leather only and not designed to be used on suede. Applying a regular leather care conditioner to suede can completely unsettle its natural fibres and most likely ruin the hat. However, given there are different methods and tricks for cleaning and looking after suede, let’s just look at some of the basics to help it keep looking in tip-top shape.
First of all, when it comes to cleaning dry-soiling like dust and dirt, it’s best to use an actual suede brush. The bristles can vary from soft to rubberized (for lighter soiling) through to dual nylon and metal bristles for heavier duty cleaning. They can be relatively inexpensive items and often look like regular shoe brushes, but please note that normal brushes can simply spread the dirt around as opposed to actually lifting it. Therefore, depending on the level of soiling you are attempting to clean, you can decide which type of suede brush you will need. Remember that you want a brush that will lift the dirt; not simply push it further down. When dealing with stubborn stains and heavier soiling, there is no need to be too aggressive with your brushing technique. Hastily applying too much pressure to the nap of the suede is neither necessary nor required. Brushing the nap of the suede in one direction whilst exercising a little patience is the best policy when it comes to brushing.
When it comes to treating wet blemishes like spilt liquids and suchlike, you’ll first need to pat the affected area with an absorbent towel or clean cloth. A tip here is to then apply a very light layer of talcum powder or similar commercially available suede product specific to the task. After allowing to settle for a few hours, your suede brush can then be used to remove the dried powder and continue to brush in the same way you would for dry soilure as described above. With that said, it’s worth noting that different cleaning tips and tricks will be required for the type of blemish sustained. You might treat heavy mud stains differently to the way you might with spilt tea or coffee for example. Whilst there are too many to list in this article, there are many sources of information available online covering the various methods and different tips used to treat specific blemishes, stains, and other markings.
As with all things however, no leather hat can last forever. It’s inevitable over time that they will start to show some degree of ageing but there are certain things you can do to help counteract the ageing process. For example, there are protection sprays available that will give your hat a level of repellence against water and dirt. There are no rights or wrongs when it comes to whether or not you should use these types of products because that will depend on how often and in what conditions you wear your hat. For those who regularly wear their leather hat in all-weather conditions, a reputed brand protection spray can help preserve it by providing an added layer of protection from the elements. If you’re just an occasional wearer who only anticipates being out and about in fairer weather, the application of a protection spray might not necessarily be required.
All in all, the most effective way to help counter the ageing process is to treat your leather hat to a little care and occasional maintenance from the outset. Whilst we’ve talked much about different ways to care for your hat, always remember that when it comes to leather hats, prevention is better than cure. And on that note, there is one final word of caution. Do not leave your hat in your vehicle or window sills at home if it can be avoided. It may well be an unknowing mistake made by many people, but magnified heat through glass is fatal to leather hats. Whenever a leather hat is left in a vehicle in close proximity to glass, the heat generated will only cause them to shrink and distort out of all recognition. Should this happen, it can often be a virtually impossible task to restore them back to their original size or shape.
We hope the basic care and attention information described in this article will go some way towards keeping your leather hat always looking healthy and remaining in tip-top condition. More information about hat care can be found here: https://hatworld.com.au/pages/hat-care
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