The fedora is one of the most popular hat designs in the world. A favorite of men’s wear since the late 19th century — and later a favorite choice for women as well — the fedora has helped shape and define headwear for more than a century. However, no two fedoras are exactly alike. Despite the signature design, there are dozens of variations to the classic fedora look. This also holds true for the basic materials used to manufacture fedoras.
Though the “classic” fedora is made of felt, manufacturers use various materials to recreate the fashionable headwear. Some materials help reduce the cost of production, while others increase the value and comfort of each hat. In this guide, we will provide a complete breakdown of the different materials used to make fedoras, including the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Straw Fedora Hats
Straw fedora hats are a great choice for summer weather and beach vacations. Typically, both women’s and men’s straw fedora hats have wide brims to protect the wearer from the elements (particularly the sun). However, the broad, breathable stitching ensures that these hats don’t become uncomfortable in hotter climates.
One common version of the straw fedora is known as the “Panama Hat.” The Panama Hat originally came from Central America, though it has since been adapted to various locales around the world. It has even been featured in various films and television series, making it one of the most recognizable fedora designs on the planet. Though precise designs vary, the Panama Hat generally consists of tightly woven white or tan straw complemented by a black ribbon.
Generally speaking, consumers like straw fedora hats because they are relatively cheap and widely available. You can walk into nearly any hat shop (especially in warmer climates) and find some version of the straw fedora hat at a reasonable price. That said, you can still find high-end straw fedoras. Handwoven straw with high stitch counts can even sell for more than traditionally-expensive materials like fur or leather.
Fabric Fedora Hats
Manufacturers can craft fedora hats out of virtually any fabric. However, some materials work better for hat-making than others. When shopping for a fedora, you’ll want to make sure that you get the most value for your money. Mesh, cotton, and nylon are three of the most popular, low-cost materials used to make fedoras. That said, each of these materials comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Mesh fabric is popular among both fedora producers and buyers, as it is durable, inexpensive, and resistant to tears. As an added bonus, mesh fabric is easier to clean than many other materials. However, some mesh fedoras may not look as good as some other fedoras, as mesh fabric has a tendency to reflect light and — when tightly woven — resemble hard plastic.
Cotton and nylon both work well for more casual fedoras. Not only are they relatively cheap to produce, but they are also very breathable and comfortable to wear. On the other hand, neither cotton nor nylon keeps its form very well. So, if you’re looking for a fedora that can be used and stored for years without losing its shape, cotton and nylon are not the best options.
Leather Fedora Hats
Leather clothing and accessories generally sell at higher prices than more accessible materials like straw or fabrics. However, high-quality leather can last for decades with proper maintenance, making it a superior option for the long-term. As a result, leather fedoras are popular for those who want a hat that will last for years on end.
Unlike straw or fabrics, leather is a pretty dense, heavy material. Thus, while leather has the durability to stand the test of time, it does not offer the same degree of breathability as other materials. Depending on the type of interior lining, leather fedoras may not be as comfortable to wear, either.
Despite the drawbacks, there are few better hat-wear accessories than a brown or black leather fedora. You can find both men’s and women’s leather fedoras, making it a versatile option. Leather also has a classic, rugged look that is hard to achieve with other materials.
Wool Felt Fedora Hats
Have you ever wanted to look like Indiana Jones? If so, a wool fedora hat is a great place to start. Wool felt may not be able to offer the same quality as fur felt, but it still provides the fashionable style and comfort of a high-end fedora.
Like cotton and nylon, wool felt does not keep its shape as well as other materials. Oftentimes, wool felt fedoras are made to be softer and more malleable than other fedoras. While this may benefit certain styles, it means that wool fedora hats probably will not last for more than a few years.
When selecting the material of your fedora, you will also need to take cleaning into account. Wool requires less washing than other materials, but it is not completely stain resistant. Unfortunately, you cannot simply throw a wool fedora in the washing machine. Instead, you will need to carefully scrub any stains using minimal water.
Hare Fedora Hats
Hare fedora hats are a step up in quality from wool felt. The fur of a wild hare is used to create hats that are water-resistant and tend to hold their shape well. Though hare fur is more expensive than most other materials, it also delivers results. Hare fedoras tend to be very comfortable and warm, making them a great option for colder weather.
However, many consumers feel confused when presented with various “fur” fedoras. This begs an important question: what is the difference between rabbit and hare fedoras? Ostensibly, both types of fedoras are pretty similar. They often look the same and are sold under similar names.
That said, hare fedoras come with a few disadvantages. First and foremost, wild hares are less common than rabbits. This means that hare fedoras offer similar quality at higher prices. Additionally, rabbit hair is easier to weave into a dense felt material, allowing hats made with rabbit fur to keep their shape for much longer. So, while hare fedora hats are better than wool, cotton, nylon, or mesh fabric, they will not necessarily give you the most value for your money.
Fur Felt Fedora Hats
Fur felt is often considered the “gold standard” of fedora materials. Why? Because both beaver and rabbit fur can be pressed into tight felts that look and feel incredible. Though fur felt may come at a higher price than most other materials, it is well worth the extra cost. A fur felt fedora is strong enough to withstand the elements without fading or becoming limp around the crown or brim.
Fur felt holds its shape, repels water, and offers a beautiful sheen that simply does not exist in other materials. It is also relatively easy to clean, especially when compared to leather. With proper maintenance, a fur felt fedora can last for a lifetime, making it a worthwhile investment.
Moreover, fur felt provides the best balance between comfort and strength. A strong, high-quality fedora should have enough crush-resistance that it can withstand regular wear-and-tear and still maintain its classic mold. With fur felt, you can rest easy knowing that your hat will remain soft on the inside and hard on the outside.
If you’d like to acquire a rabbit or beaver fur felt fedora, be sure to check out Bellissimo Hats today!