As sunnier days approach, most of us can’t wait to get back outside and into the warmth. We all know the mood-boosting effects a little vitamin D can have on the body, but prolonged sun exposure without the right tools can have some seriously damaging results. Gone are the days of roasting in the sun, applying oils to get a deep tan. Today, it is all about ample coverage. Along with regular applications of sunscreen, the best sun hats can help protect from UV rays and the negative effects they can have on the face and neck.
“Sun hats are a wardrobe necessity primarily because they protect from UV rays which can cause skin damage, premature aging of the skin, sunspots and discoloration,” Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton, Medical Director of Ingleton Dermatology, tells Byrdie. “By blocking these UV rays, you can maintain healthy and more youthful skin.” The best sun hats are as essential an accessory as sunglasses, sandals, and tote bags, on a sunny day.
Although protection should be their number one function, they can also add a stylish touch to any outfit. “They're a fun and low-key way to add a bit of kick to whatever you're wearing, which is a nice bonus,” Harling Ross Anton says. Whether you’ve been searching for a hand-woven straw shape or a canvas bucket hat is more your style, our four experts will help you navigate the do’s and don’ts of shopping for the best sun hats.
Business & Pleasure Wide Brim Beach Hat
Facial sunburns are no match for Business & Pleasure’s wide-brimmed beach hat. Featuring advanced protection, with up to 98% UV blackout from UPF 50+ premium canvas, your face, and shoulders will be covered. This style has also been treated for water and mold residences, making it ideal for any seaside activities. We love the pale pink stripe colorway for a preppy take on a sunbathing essential.
Price at time of publish: $79
Material: Canvas | Colors: Pink Stripe | Size Range: OS
H&M Tie Detail Sun Hat
If you have a habit of losing your hat every time you take a trip to the beach, try one that will stay on, while also being wallet-friendly. H&M’s simple sun hat was designed with a rounded crown, a wide brim, and two narrow ties that will fasten easily around your chin or neck, for extra hold while you run around. It also folds up and packs perfectly, whether in your suitcase for that summer vacation or in your tote bag for a quick beach trip.
Price at time of publish: $15
Material: 100% polyester | Colors: Beige, Black | Size Range: S–L
Coolibar UPF 50+ Brittany Beach Hat
Dr. Ingleton recommends Coolibar for the best protection. The Brittany beach hat offers 50+ UPF, thanks to the tightly knit cotton and linen blend fabrication, and an ultra-wide, six-inch brim. Within you will find a fully lined crown and elastic string, for adjustable sizing, helping you to find the right fit. Try one of the darker colors, like this chic and classic black, for even more shielding from those harmful rays that will go with everything in your wardrobe.
Price at time of publish: $49
Material: Cotton/linen blend | Colors: Black, Black/White Ticking, White, Denim Blue Chambray +more | Size Range: OS
Frances Grey Hudson Pencil Curl Brim Raffia Fedora
“The inspiration behind this style was that I wanted something different than your typical fedora that was also unisex,” Lorenzo says. “It’s a fun style and I believe it is one of our best sellers for those reasons.” Woven from raffia straw, the pencil curl brim, and zig-zag stitching set this style apart from any other fedora you’ve seen before. “As for the face shape best suited for this style, I think you have to try this style on,” she says. “But typically customers with an almond-shaped face have purchased.”
Price at time of publish: $370
Material: Raffia straw | Colors: Natural/Black | Size Range: S–L
J.Crew Crown Straw Hat
Stewart loves the classicism of this straw hat, noting it is also extremely great quality for the equally extraordinary price point. The straight-crown design was first launched in one for the archive catalogs but still feels completely modern. Hand-crocheted from raffia straw, this hat is the epitome of quiet luxury. Style it with a linen button down and pant set and leather slide sandals, for an effortless beach look that is also sophisticated.
Price at time of publish: $60
Material: Raffia straw | Colors: Natural Straw | Size Range: S/M–M/L
Roxy x Kate Bosworth Bucket Hat
Channel your inner "Blue Crush" wearing a piece from Roxy’s latest collaboration, with none other than Kate Bosworth, the early aughts’ own female surf icon. “People joke because I will not be on the beach anymore without a bucket hat,” Bosworth says, and this versatile sun hat is all about reversibility. One side is plain-colored, while the other features a tropical floral print, inspired by Bosworth’s own nostalgic memories. “I'm a product of the ‘80s and ‘90s, so my fingers will always be in those eras when it comes to anything aesthetic or creative in the world of design,” she explains, referencing the ideas behind the color palette and prints for this piece. Made with 100% organic cotton, it’s breathable and sustainable, as well.
Price at time of publish: $50
Material: 100% organic cotton | Colors: Burnt Orange/Printed Floral | Size Range: S/M–M/L
Eddie Bauer Women’s Exploration UPF Wide Brim Hat
The explorer hat has been put back on the map, thanks to fashion-forward interpretations from designers like Jacquemus and more, but you can’t go wrong with an OG style, like this one from Eddie Bauer. Made with FreeShade® UPF 50+ technology and moisture-wicking fabric, this lightweight style can be worn hiking, to the beach, or for any other warm-weather, outdoor activities. Simply fold and go!
Price at time of publish: $45
Material: 100% polyester | Colors: Fennel, Putty, Pale Pink, Paprika, Sea Blue, White | Size Range: S/M–L/XL
Monrowe Woven Straw Hat
An elevated take on a cowboy shape, this woven straw hat is handmade in the USA from a unique, Japanese toyo straw and made-to-order. The exposed, raw-edge fringe adds texture and definition to the brim, adding any extra luxe millinery detail. Wear yours for a farmer’s market run, a trip to the beach, or a backyard pool party for a fashionable look that will also keep you cool and covered, no matter the situation.
Price at time of publish: $255
Material: Toyo straw | Colors: Bone | Size Range: S/M–L/XL
Call It By Your Name Paisley-Print Bucket Hat
“I'm a huge fan of Call It By Your Name's bandana-inspired designs,” Ross Anton explains. The Paris-based brand recently launched in 2020, but has developed a cult following, in part due to colorful designs and upscale embroideries. Their version of a bucket hat has a super floppy brim and long ties. “The accenting beads are a fun and distinctive touch,” Ross Anton adds. This style goes well with both swimwear and a T-shirt and lightweight, baggy pants for a picnic in the park.
Price at time of publish: $115
Material: 100% Cotton | Colors: Black, Red | Size Range: OS
Lola Hats Tide Lines Bucket Hat
Founded in 1989, Lola Hats are carefully crafted by numerous skilled artisans across the globe. The Tide Lines shape is a chic canvas style, cut to perfection with the most minimal of black stitches, around the crown and brim. “This is the everything hat for beach days, rainy days, or market days,” Stewart mentions. “It’s the easiest hat to throw in your suitcase.” Style yours with a black one-piece for the beach and a flowy blouse, denim cut-offs, and Birkenstocks for a city walk.
Price at time of publish: $225
Material: 100% cotton | Colors: White with Black Trim | Size Range: OS
Lack of Color Paloma Sun Hat
The Australian design duo behind Lack of Color has managed to reimagine millinery for the modern-day woman. Take this structured, woven shape that nods to the past but remains very much in the now. “This straw hat brings any beach or day look to the next level with the gorgeous chocolate brown necktie,” Stewart notes. The bold brim has a sophisticated feel, while the necktie is actually removable.
Price at time of publish: $149
Material: 100% natural wheat straw | Colors: Neutral | Size Range: S–L
Romualda Picnic Gran Bucket Hat
“Romualda is one of my favorite sun hat brands,” says Anton. “Most of their designs, including this one, are reversible.” Known for their vibrant, joyful prints, the colorful swirls and stripes on this cotton canvas have a painterly quality. On the reverse side, you will find a simplistic, bright white, offering two distinct ways to wear it, depending on your mood.
Price at time of publish: $237
Material: 100% cotton | Colors: Multicolor/White | Size Range: OS
Loewe Frayed Denim Bucket Hat
“The perfect hat for all occasions,” Stewart says. “I have had my eye on this one for a while, as it is an easy throw-on for every day but also has an edge to it.” If you are going to go the designer route, this should be it. It’s made from light blue denim and has a frayed brim and branded logo ties to give it added appeal. Whether worn for sun protection or fashionable flair, this is one accessory that adds a cool factor to any look.
Price at time of publish: $650
Material: Cotton/linen/calf leather | Colors: Blue | Size Range: 57–59 centimeters
Best Colored Straw
Ruslan Baginskiy Monogram Logo Straw Hat
Ruslan Baginskiy, a Ukrainian-based milliner, has become renowned for classic toppers, often with a special twist, such as the pop of color seen with this straw style. Stewart is a fan, and can’t get enough of the green colorway. “This will forever be my favorite color when it comes to accessories,” she says. Available in four other colorways, from baby blue to bright pink, why not lean into a playful color for a fresh take?
Price at time of publish: $291
Material: Straw | Colors: Green, Brown, Beige, Pink, Blue | Size Range: XS–L
Wider brims are an absolute must, like Lack of Color’s Paloma Sun Hat, Free People’s Field Day Jacquard Bucket Hat, and Business & Pleasure’s Wide Brim Beach Hat. Check for UPF 30+ for the ultimate in sun protection, such as Coolibar’s UPF 50+ Brittany Beach Hat and Eddie Bauer Women’s Exploration UPF Wide Brim Hat. Don’t forget to have some fun with Romualda’s Picnic Gran Bucket Hat or Ruslan Baginskiy’s Monogram Logo Straw Hat, which each offer a fun take on keeping cool, thanks to joyous prints and bright colors.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton is the Medical Director of Ingleton Dermatology PC in NYC and is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. She received a BA in Psychobiology from New York University and her medical degree from the University of Maryland. She completed her Internal Medicine residency at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York and her Dermatology residency at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology and a member of the American Society of Dermatologic Surgeons, the Dermatology Society of New York, and the National Medical Association.
- Debbie Lorenzo is the founder and designer of Frances Grey, a New York-based luxury millinery brand. Lorenzo, who is of Jamaican descent, was born and raised in a vibrant section of Queens, a borough of New York City that is energized by Caribbean heritage and spirit. This environment greatly informed her style and her inspiration as a designer today.
- Harling Ross Anton is a writer and the co-founder of brand marketing agency Nice Thing Going.
- Maggie Stewart is the founder and designer of Shoppe Mags, a platform that focuses on interiors and fashion, using social media and an online presence. Shoppe Mags also provides personal styling, including digital lookbooks for events, vacations, and residential spaces, as well as sourcing specific items (home or fashion).
What to Look for in Sun Hats
“Select a material that is breathable, but try to choose more densely woven cloth (like denim, canvas, or wool),” Dr. Ingleton notes. “If you can see light through the fabric when you hold it up to the light then UV radiation can easily penetrate the fabric and reach your skin.” Lorenzo’s top three materials are raffia straw, which is lightweight, breathable, and packable; hemp straw for durability; and cotton canvas for washability. Ross Anton also stands behind these materials for similar reasons. “Cotton folds easily inside a suitcase without getting damaged, and is generally machine washable,” she says. “Straw can also be lovely, although not always as easy to pack or wash.”
“Select a wide-brimmed style that protects your face, neck, and ears,” Dr. Ingleton recommends. “Avoid hats with an open crown.” Both Ross Anton and Stewart recommended wide-brims, as well. “You'll want a hat with a wide brim, at least 3 inches to keep the sun off your entire face, neck, and chest to optimal protection,” Stewart says. Alternatively, Lorenzo calls out shape as a key consideration as well, but in order to find the right style for your face type.
Can the hat be styled in multiple ways? Is it packable? Is it machine-washable? These are just a few of the questions that our experts ask themselves when they are choosing their own selects for a long vacation or simply daily wear. “Packability is the number one factor for me,” Ross Anton says. Choosing foldable styles that don’t feel too precious will make a day trip to the beach or an extended getaway all the easier, as well as not taking up too much space in your closet.
“It is important to ensure that the hat fits properly to offer maximum protection and comfort,” Lorenzo says. Dr. Ingleton warns about fit, as well, in relation to a sun hat's protective capabilities. “Caution: If your sunhat gets wet or loose it will lose some of its innate protective qualities, as it will become more transparent, thereby allowing your skin to be exposed to more UV light than when it was dry,” Dr. Ingleton says.
What are the benefits of wearing a sun hat?
“Sun hats block about 97–98% of the sun’s UVB rays, and these are the rays that primarily cause sunburns, age spots, and skin discoloration,” Dr. Ingleton explains. “Sun hats will protect your face, ears, and neck from the sun's rays but also protect your eyes from the sun’s glare, and your hair from becoming sun damaged.”
Lorenzo agrees: “There are numerous benefits to wearing a sun hat, including reducing sunburns, skin damage, and skin cancer. Consistent use of sun hats can preserve skin health from prolonged exposure to the sun.” Not only do the best sun hats protect, “Hats can be a stylish accessory that complements a variety of outfits, making them not only functional but also fashionable,” she says.
What is UPF?
“UPF means Ultraviolet Protection Factor,” Dr. Ingleton explains. “The UPF indicates how much UVA and UVB rays your clothes’ fabric protects you from. Generally, UPF 50 fabrics block 97–98% of the sun’s rays, thereby reducing your risk of sun exposure significantly.” She notes that you should always look for fabrics that have a UPF of 30 or higher to be effective.
How do you measure your head for hats?
First things first, you will need a soft tape measure. “Place the tape measure around the widest part of your head, which is typically just above your eyebrows and ears, do not pull the tape too tight,” Lorenzo explains. “Take the measurement in centimeters or inches.” She recommends measuring three times for accuracy, then documenting the size. “If you fall between hat sizes, it is usually best to choose the larger size and use sizing inserts to make minor adjustments for a more comfortable fit,” she adds.
Why Trust Byrdie
Full-time freelance writer and fashion editor Kristina Rutkowski has been covering all things style, trend, and shopping for over 10 years. Her bylines have appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair, WWD, The Zoe Report, Editorialist, InStyle, and SELF. Living in New York City, she is often able to see and try out brands firsthand, directly through the designer showrooms, which has provided ample research opportunities for this story.