In our new advice column, Ask the Strategist, we take your most burning shopping questions and scour friends, call up experts, and draw from personal experience to answer them. As always, please comment with one of your own — we’re here to help.
Question: A sun hat or cute hat you can wear on the beach that’s not too big and not too flimsy, but still nice and durable and cute?
We went with this question in honor of Mother’s Day because moms love talking about the dangers of the sun. This isn’t the ’60s anymore! They love to say, “We all know the harms of UV rays now.” So let’s show her that you’ve been listening all these years, and treat her to the best in sun-blocking beach hats.
I began my search at Everything But Water, a swim shop on the Upper East Side, because that’s the last place my own mom bought herself a summer beach hat. The assistant manager, Antonio, didn’t have a specific brand or style to recommend, but he did say that most people prefer raffia as a material because it’s lightweight, not heavy or hot, and floppy, so it covers more sun.
To expand on that thought, I got in touch with Eileen from Canyon Beachwear, who’s been working in the swim space for the past 17 years. Without hesitating for even a moment, she recommended Wallaroo, a Denver-based company founded by Stephanie Carter and Lenya Shore. The two women discovered what they call “the secret to sun protection” back in 1999 in Australia: SPF- and UPF-protected (that’s ultraviolet protection factor) hats that completely block the sun. They started shipping small quantities of the hats from Down Under back to Colorado, where more and more women were asking them where they got their hats. As these things go, they started a company, which was eventually listed as a Top Women-Owned Business by Boulder’s Daily Camera.
The Wallaroo comes in all different styles — some of which are in raffia, some of which are for divas, some of which are waterproof, and most of which come in lots of different colors. The most practical thing about them is that they adjust from the inside, so you don’t need to worry about sizing (perfect for online ordering *cough cough*), and they’re both packable and crushable. That means, you can just stuff this hat into any bag, and it’ll pop right back up and into shape, whereas with most other packable hats, you have to carefully roll them up to maintain the shape. If that makes you nervous though, Eileen from Canyon Beachwear advises on the best way to pack a hat: fill up the inside with small things like bathing suits or socks, place it on the bottom of the suitcase or bag, and fill in the space around it with the rest of your stuff.
For the more discerning mom, I’ve been kind of obsessed with a hat brand called Clyde, ever since I found them on Instagram last year. It’s a smaller company based here in New York City that was started by a former merchandiser and sales director at Assembly New York. I’d probably wear any single one of her straw hats (and she also makes great vinyl bucket hats for rainy days).
On a similar note, the Helsinki-based Samuji makes a halo hat with an incredibly wide brim for ultimate coverage. I’m into the color-blocking on this much more affordable Asos option. And if you’re as obsessed with black straw-dip hats as I am, you’ll enjoy the durable Carlton by Kin/K and Rag & Bone’s packable straw fedora.
We’d love to hear from you. If you have any burning questions, please leave them for us in the comments.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best women’s jeans, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, ultra-flattering pants, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.
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