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Picking the perfect sun hat

Now that the summer semester is upon us, it’ll only be a few short weeks until it’s time to break out the sun hats.

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By Valerie Franklin (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: May 7, 2014

Wicker or straw hats provide the perfect balance between fashion and function for the summer. (Image:  Smitty/Flickr)

Wicker or straw hats provide the perfect balance between fashion and function for the summer. (Image: Smitty/Flickr)

Now that the summer semester is upon us, it’ll only be a few short weeks until it’s time to break out the sun hats. 

Slapping a hat on your noggin is a quick fix for a multitude of summer problems: it’ll cover up unwashed roots and bad hair days when it’s just too hot to care about making your bangs lie flat, protect your skin from sunburns and premature aging, help prevent skin cancer — oh yeah, and it’ll look awesome.

From fascinators to Stetsons, hats can lend more character to an outfit than any other article of clothing, and the summer heat gives us the perfect excuse to experiment with new looks in the name of staying cool. Top your boring denim cutoffs and t-shirt with a jaunty trilby, or try a floppy felt hat with a maxi skirt and lots of necklaces if you’re into the trendy, retro ‘70s look. For a touch of Hollywood glamour on a hot day, look for a big, wide-brimmed straw hat à la Audrey Hepburn in Paris When it Sizzles. (Extra points for cat-eye sunglasses and sassy lipstick.)  Watch out for peripheral vision problems with broad brims, though, especially if you’re driving; you want to be able to look good and look around.

For those who prefer a narrower brim on their sun hat, jaunty straw fedoras are a summer staple. However, beware the douchebag look, especially if you’re male — fedoras have gotten a bad rap in recent years as the mark of the sleazy, chauvinistic “nice guy” (thanks, Kevin Federline). Just steer clear of pairing your fedora with rhinestones and Ed Hardy accessories and you’ll be fine. 

If you like clothing that does more than just look nice, canvas sun hats and rugged bush hats are refreshingly practical in the summer — a good choice for the kind of person who would rather go hiking than lounge beside the pool in a bikini. A well-made canvas or cotton hat by brands like Tilley or Outdoor Research can wick moisture away from your head and keep you cool, as well as providing shade for your shoulders and face. They’re not exactly high fashion, but pick a waterproof one with classic, structured lines and it’ll look rugged rather than frumpy.

When looking for a sun hat you can wear through the summer with everything in your wardrobe, opt for a neutral colour like beige, grey, brown, or another light colour that won’t attract much heat to your head. Try out lots of different styles — floppy and structured, broad-brimmed and narrow — and look for a hat with lines and proportions that complement your facial features and build. If you’re tiny, you might drown in a giant, floppy sun hat; try a pixyish cloche or a fedora instead, which will still offer some shade for your face. If you have a strong profile, look for something with a forward brim that will balance out your features.

Finally, remember that wearing a sun hat doesn’t mean you’re protected from the sun; always take care of yourself and cover up with sunscreen and long sleeves.

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