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Owner's Manual for the Tilley Hat or Much Ado About Something
by Alex Tilley

I'm sure you'll enjoy your new Hat! Like a Rolls-Royce, it's rather special, so let me tell you a bit about it.

The Hat was conceived in frustration and born of necessity. As a corporate art dealer and consultant I had become, over the years, rather 'picky' regarding quality, and I couldn't find a hat that quite met my standards - or my boat's (a 31' mahogany, brass, teak, varnish and fiberglass Brandelmayr-designed sloop). A proper sailing hat had to float, stay on, be unshrinkable, last indefinitely, and be attractive.

In January 1980, I decided to have one made, not only for myself, but for other sailors. Fortunately, I knew nothing about headgear so I didn't realize that it was thought impossible to make such a hat. I received design advice from a milliner, information about materials from a sail-maker, and then I oversaw its manufacture by a local hat maker. By March, some prototypes were ready. My family and I tested them on a marvelous charter in Belize where we encountered trade winds, reasonably small waves (because of the offshore reef), beautiful islands, superb snorkeling, and friendly people. (On the last day of the charter, at the same moment that I steered us aground, I managed to wrap the anchor line tightly around the propeller shaft...)

Now don't get the impression that the Tilley Hat is just for sailors! It is equally at home in the desert, in the Himalayas, in the garden, as well as on the golf course, by a trout stream or whilst strolling through London in the rain. Tilley Hats are issued to Canadian troops in time of war and peace- keeping missions.

Your Hat is nearly indestructible, although your family dog could prove otherwise. The rain- and mildew-resistant 10-oz cotton duck is the best of its type. (The lighter-weight LT5 Hats, completed in the waning days of 1999, are made of Tilley Nylamonite(c), a newly developed, strong, water- and mildew-proof form of nylon. The grommets are solid British brass. The Hat is made by hand with the help, of course, of the small, powerful sewing machines needed to sew the tough material. Don't worry about the strong threads pulling loose, they're lockstitched, as are all the stitches in everything we make. For the LT5s, we use a special cotton thread that swells when wet, sealing the holes against rain. Will rain enter through the ventilation grommets? Yes, but usually not that much; just enough to keep us refreshed....

We Perspire - Or Expire

Every inch of our skin is constantly damp; we'd overheat and die without the temperature-reducing effect of the evaporation of sweat. Compared to the rest of the body, our head expels a great deal of heat; sometimes it's quite wet because of the massive evaporation needed to cool the wonder that rests within. The ventilation grommets are large to allow much of the heat and the moisture-laden air to escape. If we placed rain- and bug-stopping mesh inside the grommets, the airflow would be significantly diminished. However, such mesh inserts are available upon request; we call them 'Bugouts.'

Which is the Front?

The knotted part of the wind cord goes to the back of your head, as do the seams of the anti-sweat band and the brim. Also, if you can read the "TILLEY HAT" label upright, you are about to put it on correctly.

How Should It Fit?

The Tilley Hat fits more comfortably than other hats. It's designed to be worn low on your head and slightly loose. It should be held on by gravity, not by painful pressure on your forehead! With your left hand, pull the front of the brim away from your head, and with your right hand, see that you can easily insert two fingers, flat, between the middle of your forehead and the front of the Hat. The Hat should be loose enough that you can rotate it to the left and right, and lift it up and down, without friction on your forehead. When it's windy, use the cord! I think you'll be pleased with the way it fits and feels - especially on hot, muggy days.

The Wind Cord Keeps the Hat On

The wind cord is like one long shoelace, with the ends joined together in the simplest of knots. When it's windy, place the knotted part of the wind cord behind your head and the other loop under your chin. Notice that the knots slide easily back and forth so that you can adjust the length of the wind cord. When only slightly breezy, use just the back cord, as do the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or State Troopers with their hats.

Here's How to Adjust the Wind Cord

Tighten the chin strap by adjusting the knots on the back cord. Slide the two knots away from each other to shorten it, until it's as snug as you like. (It took me weeks to think of this simple way of keeping the Hat on in the wind.) When you don't need the wind cord, take the Hat off, slide the knots a little closer together, and drop them in the crown. Some people store the wind cord in the pocket in the crown, although I don't.

Washing Instructions

Wash your Hat frequently or sweat stains may bond to it. We have found no universally applicable way of getting these stains out; perspiration is composed of many chemicals, and the composition of each person's sweat is unique. Sweat may also eventually rot the fabric, and it will disintegrate. As you do with all clothing, wash your Tilley Hat often. You can machine-wash the Hat using warm or cool water, or simply wash it by hand, using a scrub brush. Do not bleach.

If your cotton Hat turns yellow because you used bleach in error, try TINTEX Color Remover to restore it. While it's damp, smooth and reshape it by hand, then set it out to air-dry. (You do not have to stretch it over a pot!) Don't put your Tilley in a dryer; it would come out misshapen and totally lacking in joie de vivre. When the Hat is dry, simply re-stretch it, like an American sailor showed us, by putting your knee in the crown, and pulling firmly on the opposite side. Although we have mercilessly pre-shrunk the Hat, the cotton will always contract and expand, much like denim jeans. Whenever you'd like the Hat a bit looser - on those hot, muggy days, for instance - take it off and give it a quick re-stretch.

Water Repellency

The LT5 remains about as waterproof as you could want (except where it's evidently not!). Through multiple washings, the cotton Hats lose some of their water repellency. To restore it, spray with Scotchgard(r) or something similar. One has to change the oil in one's Rolls, doesn't one?

Like the Titanic, it Floats. It Can Also Sink

One reason your Hat floats is because of the air trapped inside the water-repellent cotton fibers. The main reason, however, is the layer of closed-cell polyethylene foam in the crown of the Hat which also protects your noggin from blunt objects. (People have told us this feature has actually saved their lives!) Certain types of wave action can sink your Hat - and you. You will find that your Tilley will neither sink - nor fly overboard - as long as you are wearing the cord behind your head and under your chin. It is your responsibility to tie it on!

Is it a Shade Too Large or Too Small?

If the Hat is too small, it is nearly incapable of being stretched to a larger size. If you choose not to return it, consider selling it to a deserving friend. If the cotton Hat is a shade too large, and you don't care to return it, try the following: Soak the crown and the anti-sweat band in warm or hot tap water for about 3 minutes. Remove the Hat and let it thoroughly air-dry without restretching it. It may contract about one size. You might also consider sewing a layer of terry-cloth or such onto the anti-sweat band. PLEASE do not send the Hat back if it has been worn, or if you have attempted to change its size by soaking it.

Suggestions from Experienced Owners

Print your name, phone number (with area code) - and for the historically minded, the date with indelible ink, inside the crown. It gives a lost Hat a chance to return home. At least place a business card in the plastic bag in the crown.

Your Hat will travel wrinkle-free in the bottom of your luggage if you stuff the crown with socks and underwear.

Too windy for the T1? Reverse it and it'll stay on better. For the T3, snap up one side and the front brim will stay stiffer. On the beach, or just on the go? You can stuff a key, a business card, a credit card, a quarter (for a phone call) and a $10 bill into the plastic bag in the pocket in the crown. Sailing in the rain?

Wear the Hat under your foul-weather hood. You'll stay warmer, get more protection, and your hood will now move with your head. Your glasses will be better shielded too.

On a hot day, try wearing a dampened bandanna inside the Hat. The brass develops a sought-after permanent patina when exposed to salt air. When the anti-sweat band at the front of the Hat becomes damp, simply reverse it, so it's on backwards - and be thankful that the Hat doesn't fit tightly.

Don't know where to put your sunglasses? Insert the arms of the glasses through the two ventilation grommets on one side of your Hat. Most glasses will ride there nicely.

Sailors, be careful not to lend your Tilley unless you show the borrower how the wind cord works. When you hear "HAT OVERBOARD!" toss over a lifebuoy to mark the spot. The Hat floats low and can be hard to find in big waves. The Hat has a positive buoyancy in relatively still waters; waves and rapids may sink it and hold it down for hours. It is up to you to take the precaution of tying it on. The wind cord is like a seatbelt: Useless Unless Worn.

Did You Know...

The plastic ends of the wind cord are called 'aglets'? The knot is sometimes called a 'fisherman's bend' or a 'love knot'?

Others will ask you where they too can get a Hat. If you don't want to give them a Brag Tag, simply suggest they phone 1-800-ENDURES for a free catalogue. It might be worthwhile to memorize this number. Perhaps you've done so already?


We began by mailing our Hats from the basement of our home in 1980. By '81, we had designed our Virtually Indestructible Tilley Classic Shorts. They, and the Hats, were used successfully in the Singlehanded Race Around the World ('82-'83) and in America's Cup by the Canadian team in '83 and '86. (Both Tilley Hats and Tilley Classic Shorts have a lifetime free-replacement guarantee against wearing out.)

In 1984, we launched Tilley Endurables as a full-time venture, and loved it! We design, handcraft and sell smart-looking, classically styled, long-lasting, comfortable travel clothing for men and women - clothing with secret pockets and security pockets to protect your valuables, and washing instructions you can swear by: "Give 'em hell!"

You'll enjoy our catalogue. We try to make everything we do the best in the world, and then, with suggestions from you, make it even better.

Our Guarantee

We pride ourselves on making the finrest outdoor hats and travel clothing in the world and treating our clients in the fairest way possible. If there is a problem caused by poor workmanship or faulty material, please send your freshly washed garment to us and we'll replace the garment free -- whatever's fair. Exclusions: normal wear and tear and damage caused by misuse ot improper care.

Unbleached Tilley Hats will be replaced free if they ever wear out, mildew, or shrink.

Lastly, in the crown of your Hat are "Brag Tags". They could get you into trouble! Read it fully and you'll see what we mean! When you run out, phone us and we'll send you more at no charge.

Enjoy your Tilley! Pass it on!

P.S. SOMETHING TO SMILE ABOUT: From time to time you'll meet rather wonderful people, simply because they're also wearing the Hat. Some may become friends, and that's the nicest thing of all. Tilley Hats have been used for nearly every outdoor activity imaginable - from skydiving, to zookeeping, to serving as impromptu boat bailers! Of course, you'll also see Tilley hats worn more typically by travellers, golfers, gardeners, fisherman, and, of course, sailors. Truth be told perhaps the greatest reward is that Tilley Hat wearers, be it yourself or someone you know - are invariably interesting people of sterling character. Over the years, the Hat has been known to initiate many a close friendship and this delights us.

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The Savvy Traveller
Chicago, Illinois
Telephone: 773/525-9300