The Equipment Insider

At Wallaroo Hat Co., style meets sun protection

Are hats — not ball caps — considered golf equipment? TEI contributor Gary Van Sickle may concede yes after trying a selection from Wallaroo Hat Co., which takes UV sun protection seriously

Hats are not considered golf equipment. Maybe they should be.

Ball caps, no. Hats, yes. Let’s make that distinction because the main reason for considering them as golf gear is sun protection. I don’t know the percentage of golfers over the age of 60 who have had some kind of cancerous or pre-cancerous skin removed from their faces or their heads but I know it’s significant.

I had a basal cell — that’s early stage cancer — removed from a sideburn on the right side of my head 15 years ago. Did I use sunscreen? Yes but not religiously and I certainly never put it in my hair. Who knew? Plus, I recently had a suspicious bump frozen off my left temple and a small raised red area taken off from beneath my right eye.

Well, I’ve played golf and other outdoor sports my whole life and have been writing about golf for the last 40 years. Ball caps haven’t gotten the job done as sun protectors. It’s time to upgrade.

Wallaroo Hat Company's Fairway hat
The Fairway hat is part of Wallaroo Hat Company's Carkella collection that is not only stylish, but aids in sun protection.

Enter the Wallaroo Hat Co., based in Boulder, Colo. Stephanie Carter is the owner. She was a practicing attorney back in 1999 when she went on a trip Down Under with her Australian husband.

“His mother was out in the garden wearing one of these hats and I just knew right away that it was something I had not seen before,” Carter said. “I ran around the airport the next day buying up a bunch of them. I shipped them back to the States and everyone thought they were kind of special.”

Carter contacted an Australian designer and just like that, she was swept into the hat business. And that’s how she migrated away from her day job, a practicing attorney. Twenty-one years later, she’s a hat czar — czaress?

“It’s hard to believe I gave up law to become a hat entrepreneur,” she said with a laugh. “But this is more lucrative, way more fun, I get to meet fun guys like you and I get to travel the world.”

Except for meeting fun guys like me, her points are valid. Wallero Hat Co. makes hats for men and women, by the way.
The sun protection angle is obvious. I’ve always been a ball cap-wearer so, yeah, I’m a little slow to grasp the obvious.

“A lot of men don’t realize that baseball caps don’t cover your nose and ears so a lot of guys are getting skin cancer there and having chunks of skin taken off,” Carter said. “That’s why it is important to wear broad-brimmed hats.”

Wallaroo Hat Co. is one of four headwear companies recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation of New York.

“Anything with a three-inch brim and an SP rating of 50-plus gives you 98 percent protection from direct overhead rays,” Carter said.

Forget style. I’m a lifelong sportswriter so I have almost none. The biggest reason I haven’t tried one of those big broad-brimmed hats Greg Norman popularized in the 1990s is that they didn’t travel well. They were firm. If you packed them in a suitcase, they got smashed and ruined. They were too bulky to wear on an airplane and if you placed them in the overhead they got smashed and ruined.

Wallaroo solved that problem. Its soft hats are made of a proprietary fabric called flexi-weave. It’s a cotton-polyester blend that allows the hat to bounce right back to its shape. Stuff it, fold it, pack it, sit on it, run a steamroller over it and it doesn’t matter. The hat returns to its shape.

“It really does,” Carter said. “We’ve traveled the world, put them in carry-on bags, golf bags, ladies’ handbags and it always pops out and still looks great.”

I’ve done some testing and while I was unable to score any wheels from Rent-A-Steamroller, I reached the same conclusion. Wallaroo hats are practically indestructible. Prices on the more than 75 models vary from $27-$110. The hats are one-size-fits-most, with men’s hats made in two sizes — medium-large and extra large. They have an elastic clip system that cinches the hat to allow for a custom fit.

Carter’s newest wrinkle for her non-wrinkling hats is Carkella, which have a magnet sewn into the ribbon around the crown. Wallaroo offers magnetic ceramic badges that attach to the magnet, so corporate or other logos can be added to the hat without the time-consuming difficulty or cost of embroidering.

I don’t think I’ll take advantage of the logo opportunity, although it would be nice to have a “Media Scum” badge on the front of my hat. But I am adding a new piece of gear to my golf bag, a broad-brimmed hat. I can almost hear Carter saying, “It’s about time.”

Well, I told you I was slow.


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