A timeless fashionable and utilitarian wardrobe staple, a straw hat is made of tightly interwoven synthetic or natural straw materials and is brimmed for sun protection. Straw hats can be worn by both men and women and come in a variety of styles. Straw hats have been worn in Asia and Europe since the Middle Ages and have never ceased to provide sun protection and style. They are extremely popular because straw material is very lightweight and the fact that the hats are woven means there are small openings, which allow for ventilation and cooling during even the hottest of summers.
Are straw hats good for sun protection?
Depending on the tightness of the weave and the size of the holes that inevitably allow some sun rays to shine through, a straw hat can be excellent at providing sun protection or very poor. In general, when shopping for a straw sun hat, it's best to hold it up to the sun to see how much light can come through. Sun protective straw hats also are usually rated with a UPF factor (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). For maximum protection, we recommend sticking to hats with a UPF 50 factor.
Straw hats with a tighter weave will allow very minimal sunlight to come through and will provide more sun protection. In general, the finer and tighter the weave of the sun hat, the more work was put into making it and thus the more expensive it will generally be.
Types of Straw Hats
Many popular straw-hat styles include the boater style (which can be seen on travel bloggers and Gondolas alike), the lifeguard straw men’s hat (California Dreaming, anyone?), and the popular Fedora and Panama styles, which were originally made popular by former President Theodore Roosevelt during his visit to the Panama vacationers alike.
The Boater Straw Style
Men have worn boater hats for much of history traditionally as a formal hat for warm weather. In fact, for a time, there was actually an official day were men would switch from their winter hats to their summer boater hats (traditionally the second Saturday of May) and this day was celebrated as “Straw Hat Day”. Normally made with a stiff straw, a boater hat has a distinct look with a stiff flat crown and brim. Today, many boys’ schools in the UK, Australia, and South Africa still maintain the boater style as part of their uniform. And thanks to Madame Coco Chanel, it has become a classic iconic style for fashionable women and holds a distinct amount of presence amongst travel and fashion bloggers wardrobes. The boater style can be found all over travel pages on Instagram, especially among those traveling throughout Europe. Been to Venice? The gondolas officially wear boater hats as a nod to the iconic style. The boater hat is a great unisex option that is timeless and fashionable. However, because of its typical short brim, it isn’t always the best sun protective choice (some brim is always better than no brim though).
Panama Straw Hats
Due to their ease of wear and breathability, Panama hats are the quintessential vacationer's hat. Popularly worn by men with a light silk or linen suit, the Panama hat is made traditionally from Toquilla straw (which is light-colored). As with many other straw hats, the tighter the weave, the more work and thus the higher the price tag. Panama hats are extremely popular with vacationers and tourists as they provide sun protection and classic style. It was no surprise they became popular after images of former President Roosevelt wore a series of them whilst visiting the Panama Canal in 1906. Those images projected a confident, stylish, and sporty man, the perfect purveyor of the Panama straw hat. Although traditionally worn by men, women have also taken to this style. Today, celebrities like Amal Clooney and Khloe Kardashian pair the Panama straw hat to the top of their stylish ensembles.
Fedora Straw Hat
Many people confuse Fedora Hats and Panama hats. Aren’t they the same, many ask? Well, in some cases yes. Panama hats are defined by their material (Toquilla straw) whereas shape defines Fedoras. All Panama hats are made with straw, whereas fedora hats can also be made with other materials such as felt. A fedora has a low crown, pinched front, and moderately wide brim, which make it perfect for sun protection and very stylish. When most people think of Panama hats, they think of Panama hats in the Fedora style. However, there are some Panama hats that are made in a boater shape. Thus, men’s straw hats can oftentimes be a Panama Fedora hat, but if made with any other material, they would not be considered a Panama hat. Straw fedora hats compliment both men and women, and are top choices for tourists as they are lightweight, provide sun protection, and easily match many outfits without taking away from their style.
Floppy Beach Straw Hat
When most people think of a straw hat, they think of the ever so popular floppy beach straw hat worn by women. With broad brims, the floppy beach hat provides wide sun protection and is a great compliment to any bikini and cover-up. In fact, the brims can be up to 10” wide, providing even shoulder sun protection. Because floppy sun hats can be found at many different price points, one must pay special attention to the UPF factor as well as the tightness of the weave if sun protection is important to them. It is extremely common that beachgoers get sunburnt, especially on the top of their heads (their scalps) whilst wearing a cheaply made and inexpensive floppy hat. That is not to say they are all cheaply made, just that so many are so one must be careful when selecting.
The Lifeguard Straw Hat
Made famous by its namesake, Lifeguards, along the coast of California, the lifeguard hat has a very distinctive high crown and adjustable chin strap. LifeGuard hats are generally made with very thick straw and loose weave and are not usually the best choice for those considered with sun protection. They are, however, very stylish, and provide moderate protection from the sun's harsh rays. Don’t be fooled by the name, however, this hat is popular with gardeners, fishermen, and lifeguards alike.
The Garden Straw Hat
Straw hats for gardening are extremely popular for their lightweight qualities. Most gardening straw hats have chinstraps and are popular among those who want to consider activity when choosing a straw hat (they don’t want their hats flying off whilst bending over or doing other activities).
The Derby Straw Hat
Straw hats take on high fashion, especially for women. Popularized by Audrey Hepburn in 1961 in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the lampshade style is made with a fine straw and steamed to be shaped with a lampshade crown. The wide brim provides excellent sun protection and the dramatic style adds oomph to any outfit.
Best Straw Hats for 2020
Trying to avoid the suns harsh rays or trying to make a fashion statement? Whether you are looking to avoid skin damage, block out the heat, or just look plain stylish, here are our top picks for straw hats for Summer 2020.