You may have been staring at my head shot wondering “What is that handsome hat she’s wearing?” (You haven’t? Well here it is again.)
This, my friends, is a Tilley hat, and I wear it proudly. Tilley Endurables Inc. is a Canadian travel wear company founded in 1984 by Alex Tilley. The hat was the first product Alex created in 1980 to suit his own needs as a sailor. Now the company sells not only dozens of models of hats for women, men, and children, but also travel clothing and accessories. They have a few stores in Canada’s main cities, and sell some of their items through other retailers across North America. (*)
I bought my hat in early 2007 for the price of $75 CAD (plus taxes) and have been wearing it on every trip ever since. Wait. $75 for a hat? “Isn’t that a bit rich for a budget traveller?” I hear you say.
That used to be my view as well. However, there would come a point on every trip where I really wished I had a hat to protect me from the sun. If I hadn’t brought with me an ill-fitting cap (probably acquired on a previous trip), then I ended up buying a cheap and even crappier hat at my destination. In the end I was left with 8 or 10 headpieces, each worth about $10 or $15, none of which I really liked. You see how the math works here?
Finally I said “enough is enough”, bit the bullet, and bought my Tilley, a TH4 Hemp Hat. I have never regretted it and wished I had bought it sooner. It protects my head from the harsh sun of the tropics, from rain, wind, dust, and splashing water on boat trips. It makes me look good and provides camouflage on bad hair days (which happen frequently on the road).
Tilley hats come in 13 different sizes and you are properly fitted when you buy one at a store. (Tip: two fingers should fit comfortably between your forehead and the hat).
A new convert
In 2012, while preparing for our trip to the Galapagos, my best friend decided she also wanted a Tilley hat. So I took her to the Queen’s Quay Terminal mall in Toronto (**), where I had originally bought mine. I normally hate shopping, but the Tilley store is very pleasant. You can browse all you want, yet it’s very easy to get help from the knowledgeable staff when you need it. You can even help yourself to coffee and cookies!
Tilley hats are forever
Besides protecting my head and making me look good, my Tilley hat is also a confidence booster. If for any reason I feel nervous or intimidated, I put it on my head and instantly, I feel unfazed and adventurous again. I’ve noticed people staring at it, and it seems to mesmerize babies!
On top of all that, it’s easy to wash. Just soak it in warm water and liquid detergent in the sink for a bit, and watch the dust from all those countries seep out. Then give it a squeeze and leave it to air dry, preferably fitted over a bowl to restore its shape. (The label says you can machine wash it, but I’ve never dared.)
Tilley hats also come with an unusual warrantee: all (except a few models) will be replaced free if they ever wear out! So you’re basically set for life with one hat. When the metal grommets on mine oxidized from exposure to salt water, Tilley replaced them free of charge, and even gave me a new chin strap. Amazing.
Do I have anything negative to say about the hat? Well, its deep mocha colour has lightened up with the years of sun exposure; it’s more like a light brown now. Better the hat than my head though!
(*) You can also buy your hat online at Tilley.com and have it shipped internationally. Instructions on the web site help you determine the proper size. The current price is $84 CAD.
(**) The Tilley store at Queen’s Quay Terminal in Toronto closed down in 2015.
Note: This post contains affiliate links to Tilley, so if you buy any of their products through these links, I make a tiny commission that helps me maintain my site. However, I’m a true fan of the Tilley hat, and this review was written years before Tilley even came up with an affiliate program!