While the hat is a familiar article of apparel, most of us don't know how they're made. The construction of a hat depends on what kind of hat it is. For instance, some hats are made as a generic blank, then blocked into shape with heat and steam. Others are sewn out of oddly shape pieces of material that look little like the hat they are going to become.
Straw and felt hats are among those that are blocked. In industrial uses, this is done with a large machine that can block many hats at once. Prior to the invention of blocking machines, this was done by hand on a metal pan. The brim and crown may be done using two different forms, depending on the style of hat to be made.
Because steaming the hat is what allows it to take its shape, there are several different kinds of hats that all start out looking the same. Bowlers, fedoras, and other kinds of felt hats are created as a shaped felt blank. Then, they are placed onto the hat block and any shaping or creases that are desired are put in. The brim is then trimmed to the desired shape, and the hat is finished. Straw hats are created in much the same way.
Straw hats are often coated in a stiffener or protective varnish. Felt hats may also contain sizing to stiffen them. All these agents except varnish are designed to dissolve when exposed to heat and water, so that the hat can be reblocked by a professional if needed. Finishing off blocked hats involves attaching a brim wire if one is necessary to the style, and adding a sweatband and any decorative bindings that are appropriate.
Other styles of hats, such as baseball caps, are both sewn and shaped. The individual pieces of the hat are cut from fabric, which may be treated with a stiffener, then machine sewn together. If the brim or crown requires shaping, this process is often done after the hat is assembled, unless it would harm the hat. The hat may then be finished like any other hat, including hemming and adding a hatband.
By the time a hat gets to the store, it has been through a number of complicated processes. Making a hat is almost more like sculpting than conventional garment making, because of its three dimensional nature. Now that you know a little bit about what goes into the process of making a hat, you'll be able to better appreciate wearing one.