Words by Siraad Dirshe
Photography by Aundre Larrow

Over the last thirty years, New Era’s fitted hats have become a cultural mainstay; most guys own, or have owned, a fitted. And while a baseball cap might be your hat go-to, it’s time to spice up your hat game and take a style cue from Future and Pharrell, who both know how to make a statement with their headwear.

“As guys, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut, and what I say in my shop to customers all the time is that we need to evolve and reinvent ourselves more – reinvention is like a breath of fresh air,” says hat guru Marc Williams, owner and founder of New York City’s Flamekeepers Hat Club. But as Marc reminds us buying a hat, which can sometimes cost three or even four figures, is a luxury which is why you probably want to approach it the same way you would any other luxury purchase, with some care and consideration. So to guide you through the process, we enlisted Marc’s help to breakdown how to find the perfect hat and to properly care for it.

Take Your Time

Finding a good hat that works for you takes time and effort; much like finding a good suit. So be prepared to put in some work – chances are won’t fall in love with the first (or even 10th) hat that you try on. Before you start your search, Marc suggests thinking about why you’re looking for a hat and where you’re planning to wear it.

“It’s important to try on a lot of hats, especially different styles,” says Marc. “The first time someone walks in here, I tell them to take a picture of themselves in the hat and to hold onto that for a few days, maybe even months. If it’s meant to be, you’ll come back, ” he explains. When you can’t stop thinking about a hat, that’s when you know you’ve found the one.

Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone

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Oddly enough, the adage “life begins outside of your comfort zone” can also be applied to fashion. Do Fedoras intimidate the hell out of you? Do straw hats remind you of your uncle Toni and linen suits? Well maybe try those on first; don’t be intimidated by a particular style of hat.

“When people walk in here, I’m not about the sell. I don’t sell hats, hats sell themselves. I sell the feeling the hats give you,” Marc states. So what’s the worst that could possibly happen from  stepping outside of your comfort zone, you actually look good?

And if you’re more of a seasoned hat wearer than a novice, why not try a unique color, like red, or interesting material, such as velvet, to push the style envelope a bit.

So you’ve bought the hat, now what…

Store it Properly

If possible, you’ll want to store your hat in a hat box, most should come with one. Keeping it in a box will not only prevent it from getting dirty (more on that later) but it will also support both the brim and crown of the hat.

If yours doesn’t happen to come with a box, or you live in an apartment where space is precious commodity, make sure to lay it upside down on its crown (the top of the hat); sitting the hat on its brim will cause it to change shape and flatten out. Last but not least, store the box or hat, in a cool, dry place since heat and moisture can damage your hat.

Clean It Fairly Regularly

Hats don’t tend to get too dirty but they will get dusty or linty. A gentle brushing every few months, particularly felt hats, with a horsehair brush will keep it looking fresh. To get rid of lint, simply use a lint roller around the hat. When it comes to stains or light marks, a damp cloth usually does the trick for spot cleaning.

For straw hats and major stains you’ll need to use steam which will help to loosen and lift out dirt without ruining your hat. While you could try steaming your hat at home, it’s probably best to leave the heavy lifting to the professionals. Most hat shops should offer a cleaning service, so make sure to ask when you’re buying your hat.

A Little TLC Goes a Long Way

Marc’s advice, “treat your hat like you would a nice pair of shoes.” It’s okay to wear it in a light drizzle, but avoid harsh weather whenever possible. If your hat does happen to get wet, let it dry naturally; drying it with a hair dryer or heater will distort and shrink it. Same goes for extreme heat. Extended amounts of heat and sunlight can shrink and fade your hat.

Lastly, always handle your hat by the brim and not its crown. Constantly grabbing the top of your hat will weaken the crown’s ability to holds its shape, something you definitely don’t want to happen.

But if you can abide by these rules, you’ll be able to keep your hat forever, or until you find another that calls your name.