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How To Stretch A Hat

Few things in this life are more disappointing than receiving an awesome new hat, only to put it on and realize the hat is too tight. Don't take it personally — each head is unique and not every hat will fit every shape, regardless of an adjustable strap. In fact, the average head size for a male has increased by 2 centimeters to about 59 centimeters over the last few years. This means that hats that used to fit the average head size are now snug and sometimes even too painful to wear.

However, an undersized hat does not have to be written off as unwearable. Whether you ordered a hat online without getting to try it on or received a tiny hat as a gift, we've got some tricks up our sleeve to help you stretch it. Read on if you're looking for suggestions to salvage a hat that's too small.

stretch hat

Stretching a Hat by Material

The best method to use for stretching a hat varies by the hat's style and material. Not every stretching technique works well for every type of hat, so be careful to choose the right one for your needs to avoid harming your hat.

Before we look at specific stretching methods for certain hat styles, we need to take a look at which types of fabrics are the easiest and most difficult to stretch. Understanding how to care for the material your hat is made out of will prevent you from making basic hat-stretching mistakes. Here are the five most common hat materials in order of least difficult to most difficult to stretch:

  1. Cotton: As a softer and more pliable fabric, cotton is the most flexible hat material to stretch. Cotton's willingness to bend makes cotton hats durable and resistant to damage.
  2. Felt: Whether made from wool or fur, felt is another hat fabric that's on the softer side. Felt is more delicate than cotton though, so extra care is needed when stretching a felt hat.
  3. Straw: The same interwoven quality that makes straw hats appealing makes them extremely difficult to stretch. Straw hats can be stiff and fragile, so always use a light touch when stretching them.
  4. Leather: Leather is even stiffer than straw and often shrinks back to its original size after being stretched. Stretching a leather hat requires patience and attention to detail.
  5. Polyester: Due to its synthetic nature, polyester doesn't generally change in size. This means there may not be much you can do to stretch your polyester hat — but it also won't shrink much or ever need stretching as long as it originally fit.

Stretching a Hat by Style

Now that you know how to treat various hat materials, we can break down hat stretching by what style of hat you're trying to stretch. We'll go over the best approaches for different types of hats, but keep in mind the most important factor when deciding how to fix a hat that is too small should always be the material the hat's made from.

Follow this guide to learn how to break in a hat according to its style.

Knit Hats

If you have a beanie that's a bit snug, you're in luck because knitted hats are typically the easiest to stretch. Use water to relax the hat's fabric naturally and get it ready to be stretched. Using water to loosen a hat's material is the main technique for any type of hat. It's important to be careful not to go overboard and douse hats that have dyes that can run.

Any hat made from cotton or similar natural material can be stretched by first soaking or spraying the hat in warm water, then lightly pulling on the fabric to stretch it. While stretching the beanie's stitching, work your way around the hat in a circular motion so the hat ends up evenly stretched. Make sure you begin by tugging on the material very gently so you don't overstretch your hat.

Baseball Hats

Of course, the first step in stretching out a fitted baseball hat is to wear it. Many times, a baseball hat will stretch out as it gets broken in, but that is not always the case.

If your baseball hat doesn't loosen up over time, the next step is to try hot water. Either soak your baseball hat in hot water or put it on to take a hot shower, and then continue to wear it until it dries and molds to the shape of your head. The only downside to this method is that it won't work if your baseball hat is made from polyester.

If you're wondering how to break in a snapback hat, the same rules apply. Sometimes even the loosest snap on a snapback hat isn't a large enough circumference. In that case, using hot water or wearing the hat for an extended period of time might be needed to stretch it out. If a snapback hat or baseball cap is still not big enough after trying these methods, you might want to look into getting some of the hat stretching tools discussed later.

stretch a fedora


Stretching a fedora is a bit more difficult because most fedoras are made from wool or fur felt, which are tougher materials to stretch without harming the hat. You can still try to use water to manipulate and stretch out the material, you just have to be more careful. Lightly spritz the hat with lukewarm water to dampen it just enough to make the fabric more manageable. Then use a blow dryer to dry the hat into a shape that will fit your head.

If your fedora still isn't fitting right, you might want to inspect the sweatband. A shrunken sweatband could be the reason your hat has been feeling tighter lately. In this case, you'll most likely want to buy a new hat. Replacing a hatband is a tedious and time-consuming process, and it usually only gets you about a quarter of a hat size increase anyway.

Another hat stretching option for felt fedora owners is the steam method, which we'll talk more about in the next section.

Cowboy Hats

Those wondering how to stretch a cowboy hat have a bigger challenge on their hands because cowboy hats are usually made out of less-flexible materials like straw or leather. The tightness and rigidity of these materials make stretching them a more delicate matter, so it's suggested that you don't try to stretch a straw hat manually. Instead, take your cowboy hat to a professional hatter to stretch it out and increase the hat by a full size without contorting its shape.

Although a professional is preferred, it is possible to stretch a cowboy hat on your own at home. If you can't take your hat to a hat expert and need to know how to stretch a leather hat yourself, consider using the steam method. Check out the next section to find out why the steam method is the best DIY way to stretch a hat that requires some extra TLC.

The Steam Method

The steam method is a low-risk way of loosening a hat's natural fibers and forming them to your head's shape. Even for stiffer substances like leather, straw or felt, the steam method gently coaxes the material to loosen up and become more malleable. This method doesn't take any special tools or much expertise — you only need two items!

Here are all the supplies and steps you need to attempt the steam method:

  • Tea kettle: Start by boiling water in a tea kettle or small pot. Then hold the hat over the steam, alternating one minute on, 30 seconds off for at least four rounds. This step will relax the fabric of your hat.
  • Blow dryer: Next, turn a blow dryer to the highest setting and blow-dry the inside of the hat until it's just mildly damp. After getting the hat mostly dry, wear it until it air dries completely to the exact size of your head. 

hat stretching tools

Hat Stretching Tools

A tight hat can be uncomfortable and cause creases in your hair. But with the right tools, you can make any hat feel as if it were tailor-made. The good news is that hat stretching tools are generally inexpensive, and you may even have some of the more common ones lying around the house already.

Here are some of the basic tools to have in your hat-stretching arsenal:

1. Spray Bottle

A spray bottle can be extremely helpful in stretching a hat that's made from a more fragile fabric. By using a spray bottle, you can control which parts of the hat get wet and how much water a hat absorbs — which may help prevent any colors from bleeding as well. This can be especially important when you want to avoid spraying the cardboard bill of a vintage baseball cap.

Along with a spray bottle, you will also need a blow dryer, which is an essential tool for both the spray bottle and steam methods.

2. Sewing Scissors

When all other methods have failed to adjust the size of a baseball hat, scissors may come in handy. Small, strategic cuts along the sweatband of a baseball hat can do the trick in loosening the hat enough to fit your head. Be sure to make the cuts near the back of the hat and make them short enough that they don't slice into the hat itself.

3. Soccer Ball

If you've got a youth-sized soccer ball, then you already have a key hat stretching tool. Simply stretch the hat to fit around the soccer ball and leave it overnight to maintain that size. If the hat shrinks back after you remove it from the ball, repeat the process as many times as needed until you get the hat size gains you're looking for.

The soccer ball stretching method is convenient because it's easy and doesn't require any water or a drying process, but it won't get as big of a stretch as other methods. If you want a substantial increase in hat size, try the spray bottle technique or steam method first.

4. Hat Jack

The Hat Jack hat stretcher is the ultimate hat stretching weapon. As a bonus, the Hat Jack is also able to shrink your hat as easily as stretch it. So if you or anyone in your life has an ill-fitting hat, the Hat Jack is your one-stop hat gadget.

Follow this process to use a Hat Jack:

  1. Position the Hat Jack in the inside of your hat's brim, then boil water to generate steam.
  2. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat.
  3. Hold your hat over the steam as you crank the Hat Jack to expand the hat to the desired size.
  4. Before removing the Hat Jack, let your hat air dry for between 20 or 30 minutes.

If the hat shrinks back after drying, you can repeat the Hat Jack process until your hat maintains its desired size. If your hat doesn't fit right after using a Hat Jack, then it's probably not going to stretch as much as you need.

2XL and 3XL Hats

If your head is on the larger side, it can be hard to find hats that fit. Stretching hats can be time-consuming and doesn't always get the results you want. Skip the process by purchasing a 2XL or 3XL hat that's already large enough to fit your noggin. Most companies don't offer hats sized above an extra-large, but Hats Unlimited offers a wide variety of 2XL and 3XL hats. From fitted baseball hats to fedoras, Hats Unlimited has both 2XL and 3XL hats in designs that will complement any outfit and fit right, not tight.

Adorned with the right-sized hat, your above average head can be your best feature. So let your headwear turn heads with a stylish and comfortable 2XL or 3XL hat from Hats Unlimited.

Order Hat Stretcher

Order a Hat Stretcher or Shop XL Hats at Hats Unlimited

Hats Unlimited is home to plenty of high-quality, large-sized hats, but if you're looking to stretch an old hat rather than buy a new one we've got you covered. Check out the Hat Jack hat stretcher to find the most versatile hat sizing tool you could ever need. We offer the Hat Jack in three sizes — small, medium and large — so even child-sized hats can be stretched.

Next time you're in need of a new hat, choose from our extensive 2XL or 3XL hat selection to save you stretching time. We offer top brand name hats in 2XL and 3XL sizes so you don't have to sacrifice fashion for comfort. Ditch the "hat hair" and headaches caused by too tight hatbands when you order the perfect 2XL or 3XL hat for any occasion.

If you're not sure what size hat would be right for your head or how to properly stretch your hat, contact Hats Unlimited with all your hat-related questions today.

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