The dark side of success: Or, how to stretch a hat.

In order to achieve balance in life there must be highs and lows; good and bad; dark and light. You know—that old Yin & Yang chestnut.  And so it is that with the great success of a blog like mine comes an equally great downside: a swollen head. I realized this recently when my lucky fishing hat no longer fit.

My hat has always been a bit snug; something I’ve just lived with, and kept my hair fairly short to minimize the discomfort. But when recently I donned the lucky lid it seemed to have become even smaller since the last time I wore it—so much so that wearing it was now out of the question. Everything seems to shrink as it gets older, and I readily accept that. But this discovery was particularly troubling. My lucky fishing hat, while not really lucky at all, has been with me for a lot of years. And it shows: Weathered and worn, it’s been rode hard and put up wet often. And therein lies the problem: it’s gotten wet and been allowed to dry many times over the years; each time it has dried it has gotten just a bit smaller.

What to do?

I went to the library and used the vast microfiche system to do a bit of research. I discovered options with regard to increasing the size my hat. One of those options was to find a hat shop and have them stretch my hat. Problem: where does one find a hat shop in this day and age? Baseball style caps abound, but do enough people wear brimmed hats to sustain a business based solely on hats? Perhaps I could find a hat specialty shop somewhere in Texas, where everyone wears cowboy hats, but that wouldn’t be a geographically feasible option. I quickly dismissed this option because even if I did locate a hatter within 25 miles of my home I assumed that they’d likely refuse to service my hat. It is, after all, a little on the crusty side. And there’s an odor…

The next option was to purchase a hat stretching device. These seem like the perfect tool for stretching a hat like mine that had become too small. The problem with this option was that I didn’t want to spend $15-$20 (plus shipping) on a device that may or may not work, and may only get used one time. I’m practical, and cheap. Spending any amount of money on an old hat in an attempt to get it to fit seemed impractical and foolish. That $20+ could be put toward a new fishing hat—something that fits; something that might actually bring me more luck.

And then I discovered instructions on how to use steam and a bowl, or similar round-ish container, to stretch a hat. I could find no bowls that would suffice, but I did find a small (6-quart) tapered bucket in the garage that seemed to be about the right size for my task at hand. I decided to forego the steam and just submerge the hat in hot water instead. I measured neither my head nor the bucket to determine the proper target diameter for stretching the hat—I simply slipped the hat over the bottom of the bucket and forced it down until the hat was very snug and could be forced no further. Did I mention that I didn’t take any measurements? I left it on the counter to dry overnight.

Did it work?

The next morning I awoke eager to see if my home-remedy had been effective. I ran downstairs like an excited kid on Christmas morning and proceeded to remove the hat from the bucket. I could tell that some change had taken place, but it wasn’t until I placed the hat on my head that I realized just how effective the hat trick had been. Whereas the hat used to sit fairly high on my head (unless I pulled it down, and in doing so felt like I had put my head in a vise), it now slid down easily—too easily, in fact. Now it rests too low on my head, causing my ears to fold over like certain terrier breeds.

This could be a problem.

I guess too much of a good thing really is bad, because now my lucky fishing hat is too big. Luckily I believe I can remedy this by dampening the hat and then tossing it in the dryer to shrink it a bit.  If it shrinks too much I know how to stretch it again.

Or maybe I’ll just let my hair grow out, or get a new hat. Maybe both?



  1. Howard

    I was hoping the bucket would fit Kirk. Blue is your color, just cut out ear and eye holes. Your adoring fans what to see.

    • Kirk Werner

      I’ll need to find another bucket, Howard. The one used for this procedure is my wife’s favorite cleaning bucket. If I defiled it as you noted, there’d be hell to pay. Hell, I say.

  2. David G

    I foresee and endless cycle here… Don’t give up on the UH (unaccomplished hat). For all 8 of our sakes!

  3. Charles

    Hmmmm….the luck is all in the hat…great angle….its not me who stinks at fishing….its my lucky (or unlucky, as the case may be) fishing hat! All 20 of them!

    • Kirk Werner

      We all need a scapegoat, Charles. My hat has always served me well in that regard.

  4. marck

    I’d go with Neil Young new hat.

    • Kirk Werner

      That one rocks, don’t it?

  5. Sherry Garr

    Kirk you are one handsome, kind, intelligent, strong, friendly, wise, artistic, and very skilled accomplished fisherman! There ya go… I just solved your problem! Hopefully reading this made your head swell causing your hat to now fit perfectly!!! Your welcome!!!

    • Kirk Werner

      Now the hat is way too small again—I’m gonna need a bigger bucket, boss!

  6. deanwo

    Thanks for the hat stretching tips & technique, Kirk. I’ve got an old leather wide brim that my head grew too large for in the 80’s. It’s been collecting dust since then. Maybe I’ll get the kids old sand box bucket (it’s yellow though) and solve this 30 year old delema. Do you think a yellow bucket will work? I really can’t see spending $2.95 for a blue bucket at Walmart.

    • Kirk Werner

      I would caution you against using yellow, Dean.

  7. Carol

    You might wanna wash it in hot water and then retry the dry. One of two things could happen. 1) Either the dirt is the little bit of luck it has and it will wash off, or 2) the little bit of luck it has will be revealed. Frankly, I think that hat is damned fortunate not to have been tossed in the trash by your wife long ago, so it IS a lucky hat.

    • Kirk Werner

      There will be NO WASHING of the (un)Lucky fishing hat—that would be like farting in church.

  8. The River Damsel

    I have the solution. You grow your hair out until you can put it up in a “man-bun” and then put that too big of a hat over that! It will fit perfectly! Of course, this could take about three years. Yeah, nevermind.

    • Kirk Werner

      I never thought of that, but you may be on to something: a Top Knot. Just like a Samurai. Or, maybe not.

  9. pmanfredi

    So, I found a nice hat at garage sale that I just couldn’t pass up for $5, only problem was that it was a very faded brown, not the black that I was looking for. So I decided to dye it black, which worked ok, but during the dying process the hat shrunk. Then i found your post for the bucket stretching of the hat. Great idea! I measured my head and found that the bottom of one of those pump insecticide sprayers in the garage was the perfect size… happy again!

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