Tips Every Hat Lover Should Know

Smart Alec Hatters Lei Lady Lei

Smart Alec Hatters, located on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy, stocks a range of vintage imported hats including fedoras, panamas and felt trilbys. My father, who is a hat lover like me, has purhcased several high-quality felt hats from them. One in particular was a grey Czech-made Tonak in rabbit-felt that I wanted for my own collection. While Smart Alec predominantly stocks men’s hats, they do cater for women, like me, who enjoy the masculine styling of a man’s hat.

One sunny winter morning we went to Smart Alec to have a look at their hats. My current hat collection came along with me in the hope that owner Michael Albert would rework those which had lost their shape during my travels or were too large. Michael, who is always enthusiastic about hats, took a look at them and immediately made suggestions as to how they could be restored. Not only that, he took them in hand and, as he re-shaped them at his workbench in the shop, he showed me step-by-step what he was doing so that I could make changes myself, at home.

These tips I will share with you below:

Smart Alec Hatters Lei Lady Lei


  • Steamer - I have a hand held Kambrook Swift Steam Garment Steamer, which I use for my clothes everyday. This little steamer’s great, very affordable and perfect for reshaping hats as well.
  • Boot brush for felt hats - unused obviously. Steam the hat and then brush with the boot brush to clean. Note:  Always brush your hat in a counter-clockwise direction, when you are holding it naturally, whether it's wool felt or rabbit-felt. 
  • Fabric lint remover is especially useful for dark coloured felt hats.
  • For a hat mould, use a bowl turned upside down.


"Hats have a wonderful way of remembering their original form", Smart Alec Hatter's owner Michael said.

To reshape a hat, apply steam to soften, moving your hand with the natural shape of the hat and then hold in place where you'd like the hat to hold as it cools. Work the hat shape bit by bit with steam, that way you can continue to shape it until done rather than going too far too soon. If it doesn't work out the shape you'd like, steam and begin again.

You can reshape both straw and felt hats.


Travelling (successfully) with hats was one question I had for Michael. He showed me how to fold a hat correctly. Not all hats will roll though, especially if they're hard, but some woven panama hats or soft felt hats may do.

Directions: Push the brim down and the crown of the hat up, fold the crown into itself, then fold the hat along the middle crease and roll it up into a tight circle. Store it in a tube or slim box in your suitcase. Once you arrive at your destination, bring your hat out and unfold it to its original shape. 

This video shows you how to do it.

Note: Don't store your hats this way, it's only for travelling. 


Adding a new hat band or ribbon can bring an old hat new life. Try and make your own, or Smart Alec Hatters designs all sorts of ribbons to add to your hat.

Hats can also be trimmed down if the rim is too broad for you and made larger or smaller if they don't fit correctly. It's best to take it to a professional if you want to try this though.


Ensure that your hats are stored on a flat surface so that they don’t get crushed. Best to also have hat mould or tissue paper to keep the crown in-shape. You can keep them in hat boxes, on a hat stand or even hang them up on your wall for decoration and that way you’ll never forget to wear yours.

Smart Alec Hatters Lei Lady Lei

I learnt a lot on my visit to Smart Alec Hatters, and with a hat on order, it's definitely the place I'll be going back to update my winter and summer hat collection.

Lei xx