Stay Sun Smart with ooGee’s Aussie-Made Hats
Look stylish without compromising your sun protection.

Looking for a gorgeous hat that actually does its job in shading you from the sun? Look no further than ooGee, the Australian brand taking headwear to the next level!

With years of SunSmart commercials behind us, Australians know all too well the dangers of staying out too long in the sun. And while we all know we should slap on some SPF50+ sunscreen when we’re heading outdoors, how many of us look into the UPF of our clothes?

Ultraviolet Protection Factor measures the effectiveness of a fabric in limiting how much UV reaches our skin. The best UPF rating is 50+, which means the fabric blocks 98% of the sun’s rays – and that’s exactly the rating ooGee’s hats were awarded!

We were so impressed with ooGee’s sun-smart headwear that we wanted to learn more about their journey. So, here’s founder Peter Walcott on the ins and outs of ooGee!

1) What inspired the name behind ooGee and why was the business launched?

Paying respect to the indigenous people of our beautiful country, ooGee is an old Aboriginal term meaning headdress. Launched in early 2022 after a year or so of planning, I felt it was important to design a range that was quintessentially Australian and paid tribute to the classic headwear designs of the past.

Having worked in the hat industry for over 40 years, it was time to take control of my work life and be more independent. Choosing the hours and days to work gave me the freedom to fit in with my family life. Working for yourself is all about building a career that suits your lifestyle rather than adapting to a lifestyle that is centred around your job.

2) ooGee is setting a new benchmark in functional and stylish headwear. In your own words, tell us more about Flexibraid and what makes this technology so unique to anything else out on the market?

As with most industries, certain marketing claims such as “crush-resistant” or “travel-friendly” are widely used throughout the category but we have yet to find a material, or a competitor, that compares to our proprietary Flexibraid® technology. Experimenting with dozens of different yarns and filament combinations, my technicians and I sought to create a comfortable braid with natural handle and shape memory innovation when folded flat. The result was our lightweight, breathable, and highly resilient Flexibraid® which has become the gold standard in travel-friendly hats.

3) Headwear is as much about fashion as it is sun protection. Tell us what inspired your inaugural collection and how different Australian locations influenced the different styles?

While we give a creative nod to classic Australian styles, shapes and colours, we wanted ooGee to transcend the concept of traditional bush headwear and provide a contemporary, breathable, and lightweight alternative to the heavy (and often impractical) felt designs we see on the market today.

Catering to our Aussie climate and customers, each ooGee design is engineered to provide UPF50+ sun protection and reflect an urban edge that is cool to wear and practical to travel with. Created for the bush, beach and beyond, we named each hat after an iconic Australian waterway as a love letter to our great country and our passion for travel, adventure, and local exploration.

4) Each hat is fitted with what you call ‘ComfyFit’ technology. What makes this innovation so special?

Our ComfyFit technology is an internal and adjustable headband discreetly located at the base of the crown. Built into every ooGee hat, this ingenious mechanism allows the wearer to personalise their hat and find a fit that is comfortable and truly unique to them. It also allows each hat to remain secure in various environmental conditions, even during a gale, and meet the demands of our customers’ lifestyles.

5) All hats in the ooGee range offer UPF50+ sun protection and is approved by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). How does a hat qualify for this rating and approval?

As advocates for skin health, we take the notion of sun protection quite seriously at ooGee! For a hat to qualify as UPF50+, the maximum rating for sun protection, it must be tested by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, or ARPANSA for short, and utilise a material that blocks out 90 percent of the sun’s UV rays on all surfaces of the hat, including both the brim and the crown. The brim must also be of sufficient width to ensure appropriate shade for the face and neck. Our unique Flexibraid® material and stylish hat designs all meet ARPANSA’s strict criteria and provides the wearer with the highest level of sun protection on the market.

6) Why is manufacturing locally so important to you?

Supporting Australian manufacturing is really important to us here at ooGee, and across all my brands at Rigon Headwear, including Before Dark, Tina M, Canopy Bay and Evoke. We’re passionate about creating local job prospects and teaching new generations the traditional art of hat-making. It also has a knock-on effect for other businesses around us by stimulating the local economy and providing further employment opportunities for the suppliers we rely on to make a product that is truly Australian made. By creating our bespoke headwear locally, we can respond to a range of lead times and oversee the manufacturing process personally with flexibility and confidence.

7) Can you explain the journey an ooGee hat goes through from design to the finished product?

Without divulging too many trade secrets, every ooGee hat starts off as raw material – naturally! – where every Flexibraid® strand is hand-sewn in circular motions to become what we call a ‘hood’ – a basic, shapeless cone. This hood is then formed into a variety of hat shapes consistent with our intended design and relies on heat, moisture, and pressure-generated force to mould and secure the structure in place. Inserted into the edge of the hat is a high-quality wire to support and maintain the integrity of the brim.

In our sewing room, our talented team hand stitch our proprietary ComfyFit size-adjustor to the internal headband and add the relevant embellishments to each design. Most leather trims are sourced locally and cut by hand. Labelling, tagging, and final inspections are then completed before each hat is ready to be sent to its intended destination.

8) Many health experts recommend sun protection all year round, even on overcast days. What other ways can Aussie protect their skin and improve the efficacy of their headwear?

ooGee is designed for maximum comfort, so it’s not uncommon for users to forget they’re even wearing a hat! We encourage our customers to consider their headwear as a daily ritual and wear their hat all year round, whether it be on a hot sunny day or during the cold winter months. The harmful UVA/B rays emitted by the sun are not discriminatory and are almost as bad in winter as they are during the height of summer.

For this reason, customers should always combine their ooGee headwear with a topical form of sun protection, preferably with an SPF rating of 30+. There are countless options available on the market and we always advise our customers to liaise with their dedicated health professional to find the right sunscreen for them. We hope that the comfort provided by ooGee changes Australia’s attitude towards sun-protective hats, and they find a place in everyone’s wardrobe as a stylish and practical daily essential.

9) In 2005, you created a special hat for Crown Princess Mary of Denmark. Can you tell us more about this exciting opportunity and your creative process?

My wife, Tina, is Danish and had an association with the Danish Embassy in Sydney at the time. After securing some unique materials, we had the wonderful opportunity to create something bespoke and felt it should be worn by someone special; someone like Princess Mary. To our delight, Princess Mary wore the hat as she arrived in Australia. It also featured on the cover of her biography. More recently, Princess Mary wore another of our creations on her royal tour in Bangladesh, so we must be doing something right!

10) What does the next year have in store for ooGee?

ooGee has already received interest from international buyers in the USA, which is such a huge achievement for the brand, and Australia’s manufacturing industry. Our headwear is unlike anything currently available in the States, so we’re excited to introduce our Flexibraid® technology and show the world what Australia is capable of. As the US is a massive market, we need to be very careful not to bite off more than we can chew!

So, there you have it – an Aussie owned and made company with cutting edge, bespoke hats that keep your skin protected year-round. What more could you ask for?

If you liked this article, you might like our feature on the best vegan sunscreens on the market.

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Stay Sun Smart with ooGee’s Aussie-Made Hats