Instant Aging: How to Distress a Hat

While it's true that many of us can't resist shiny new things, sometimes we want that worn, vintage object — like a broken-in pair of jeans, sneakers, and baseball cap. So how can your new hat get that well-worn look when you don't have years and years to wait? It's actually easier than you think. And you can do it yourself.

Check out the steps below that will answer questions about making your brand-new hat look old in virtually no time at all. It's time to feed your appetite for destruction because we're showing you how to distress a hat — be it a baseball cap or wool fedora. Good luck!

Proceed With Caution

Instant Aging: How to Distress a Hat

We've all heard the phrase "easy does it." Be sure to keep that in mind when you're distressing a hat. You can achieve the comfy worn-in look gradually...and with caution. If your hat isn't looking beat up enough, you can always get more aggressive and crank it up a notch as you go. The main thing is that you build on each step and repeat as necessary. If you overdo it, you can't undo it.

Breaking in a Baseball Cap

Much like a pair of leather boots or your favorite T-shirt, natural wear of a hat over time will create its own level of vintage appeal. To speed up the process, a washing machine can work wonders, or at least offer a solid starting point before you really get crafty.

  1. To begin, determine what kind of baseball hat you have both in terms of fabric and style. Cotton, cotton blends, and synthetic materials such as polyester are durable enough to be distressed. Fine fabrics such as silk, cashmere, and linen are not. As far as baseball hat styles, pretty much anything goes — trucker hats, snapback hats, strapback baseball hats, and fitted hats are all prime candidates for distressing.
  2. Next, you'll want to wash the new cap. Follow the easy instructions in our guide to machine-washing a baseball cap and then continue with the steps below. Note: Cold or cool water is typically recommended when washing a hat, but when trying to distress a hat, use hot water or warm water to further fade and age the material.
  3. To curve a bill that is too stiff, place it in an empty coffee mug and leave it there for several hours. This should create a more malleable structure that will add to the hat's overall aged charm.

Fraying a Baseball Cap

Instant Aging: How to Distress a Hat - Fray a baseball cap

Nobody likes a scraped knee, but when it comes to distressing a new ball cap, scraping is a must. Again, start gently and then increase the intensity incrementally.

  1. To fray a baseball cap, there are a few tools you can use — sandpaper, seam ripper, scissors, even a cheese grater. You can use one or all of these depending on what sort of finished look you are seeking.
  2. For the front of the brim, start with a fine-grit sandpaper. Sand through the fabric's top layer to create a worn look; you can also try sanding different areas harder or softer to create a mix of textures. You can also graduate to coarser sandpaper until you achieve the look you want.
  3. To add some frayed features to the hat, use a seam ripper or small pair of scissors to snip through some of the top-stitching. Rub the undone threads together between your fingers until they fray out, using the same kind of motion you would to kindle a fire with sticks.
  4. You can also try a hand-held cheese grater and run it across the fabric — both in the direction of any nap and in the opposing direction for more friction — to create knicks and snags.
  5. For further distressing, use the seam ripper or scissors to cut the edge of the brim and create small holes by poking at the fabric and twisting it.

Wearing Out a Wool Fedora

Much like a baseball cap, you can wash a wool fedora to effectively get that faded, worn-in look. However, when it comes to wool felt, hot water could ruin the fabric entirely, so opt for warm water instead, at least on the first go around.

  1. To start, throw the hat in the washing machine. Take a look at our guide on how to clean a wool felt hat for easy step-by-step instructions. Washing it in the machine will fray out the edges and create a more tattered look.
  2. To mimic the effects of body oils and sweat stains, create a solution of salt water with olive oil (or vegetable oil) in a spray bottle and apply it to the hat. You could also spray coffee or black tea on the hat to create more prominent stains. Be strategic about where you spray the hat to create the desired effect.
  3. To further age the hat's appearance, twist the hat and hold it together with rubber bands. Let it stay that way overnight, which will result in creases and folds.
  4. To fray the felt, gently use a cheese grater across the fedora hat's crown and brim.  You could even use a rock. Yes, as in a rock on the ground. Do this in the direction of the nap as well as against it to create worn spots, streaks, knicks, and snags.

Roughing It

While there's nothing like the comfort and style of a hat that has aged through natural wear, there are some easy (and fun) methods to distressing a hat DIY-style in a few simple steps. In fact, there's something downright exhilarating about not having to keep a new hat in perfect condition and roughing it up on purpose. (Go ahead, mess it up! It's OK!)

With the right tools, a little patience, and some decidedly destructive inclinations, you'll have the distressed hat of your dreams in no time.

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