Restoring a 1950s trilby

As those who’ve come across me in the unflattering light of the real world will know, I’m quite fond of wearing hats. They’re unfashionable and affected, of course, but then so am I, and I’ve built up quite a collection over the last decade or so.

Thing is, though, that when you have nice hats and you wear them all the time, the weather ends up shrinking and mangling them, so by necessity you learn how to clean, stretch, and reshape them. I find it quite therapeutic maintaining and restoring things (whether it’s polishing boots, sharpening knives or darning jumpers), and hats are no different.

But as with anything, once you’ve started to learn something, the temptation is always to take it a step further, so I got a battered old 1950s furfelt trilby off FleaBay for less than £20 and set about restoring it. It started out looking pretty Greengrass, as you can see here.

Greengrass-1Revealing my ancestry as the grandson of a dry cleaner, I worked the worst of the stains out with lighter fluid, then steamed and brushed the whole hat to within an inch of its life to clean the dirt off. The surface of the felt had got quite rough with decades of use, so I used progressively finer grades of sandpaper to put a nice smart finish back on, before steaming crown and brim back into shape.

The leather sweatband had perished, so I cut it out and stitched a new one in. I suppose a proper hatter would use a sewing machine, but you can hand-stitch it if you’re patient.

Finally, the ribbon was pretty rank, so I put a new one on. In some ways this was the trickiest bit of the endeavour, but once I realised that steaming the grosgrain ribbon helps you get it tight, things got a lot easier.

So there we go. Quick last brush and it’s ready to face the world anew. What do you think?

Greengrass-2 Greengrass ont cliffs

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