How to pick the right cap for every promotion

Take a look around at any outdoor event and you won’t find many people without a branded cap. No longer only the domain of athletes, caps complete the look of every athleisure outfit and make people feel part of whatever team, company or event their cap advertises. It’s safe to say that caps are the workhorses of the promotional headwear category.

Wearables are the most remembered category of promotional products, and caps and headwear make up about 25 percent of that category, according to PPAI research. Generating about 443 ad impressions per month with logos front and center on the wearer’s head, headwear is a category you definitely want to incorporate in your clients’ promotions.

Gary Mosley, vice president at Houston, Texas-based Kati Sportcap (UPIC: KATI), says many distributors are intimidated by selling caps to their clients. “They get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of options.” But, he says, “If you know your basics and the general questions to ask,” you’ll have no problem matching your client’s objectives and audience with a perfect cap option. Read on to make sure you’re up to speed on this popular segment of the wearables market.

Caps 101 – The Basics

There are two main types of caps:

Structured structured– these caps usually have buckram (a stiffened cotton fabric liner) inside the front two panels that provide the structure and form. Structured caps have anywhere from a low to high profile. “Structured caps are what you probably think of when you picture a traditional baseball cap or trucker cap,” says Mosley.


unstructuredUnstructured – these caps have nothing behind the two front panels to stiffen them and the fabric is often washed before assembly to soften it. They have a lower profile on the wearer’s head and tend to have a more casual feel. You can fold them up and put them in a pocket. “It’s really just personal preference, but unstructured caps are growing in popularity,” Mosley adds.


Another important part of the cap is the bill. You can choose a flat bill or a curved bill. Again, it’s all about personal preference, so it’s critical to know your audience. Mosley says that many people planning events think they should order the hat that they want, but that’s a mistake. “We remind distributors that the goal of picking a cap that the recipient will like is to have the recipient actually wear it.”

Ask These Five Questions To Find The Perfect Cap

Mosley says asking the following questions will help you narrow down cap options to present for any promotion or event:

1. Who will be the end user? This will dictate whether or not you choose a structured or unstructured cap. To find out end-users’ preferences, do your research. For example, if it’s a golf tournament, watch some golf on TV or take a look at a golf magazine. From that research, you’d know that most professional golfers wear an unstructured cap with a curved bill. But for a surf or skateboard event, you would likely choose a structured, flat-billed cap based on a quick Google search of the people involved in those types of events. For hunters, you might choose a structured camo trucker cap based on what popular TV hunting show personalities wear.

2. What’s the budget? “It’s always better to ask for the budget and then try to input the cap into that budget,” says Mosley. A higher budget allows you to look at premium options such as performance fabric.

3. What’s the color story? If it has to be a specific color combination such as yellow and gray, options are going to be more limited and the cost will probably be higher. If a standard black cap will work, there are myriad options.

4. Does the fabric matter? Most promotional caps are made with standard cotton twill fabric. Other fabrics, such as microfiber performance fabrics, cost more.

5. How do you want it decorated? Embroidery is a standard decoration technique because of its clean look. While you can decorate the front, sides and back of the cap, Mosley says it can be more economical to decorate only the front and sides of the cap.

Cool Cap Choices

chino twill web

This premium “Half Pipe” retro chino twill cap features an updated performance sweatband that wicks moisture away from your head so you can stay cool and comfortable at any outdoor event. The pre-curved bill blocks the sun and makes it a perfect headwear solution for corporate programs and golf events. Choose from 14 color combinations.


Vantage Apparel Clutch Rip Stop Cap web

Sunny days call for the new Clutch Rip-Stop Sport Cap. The Vansport™ moisture management mesh sweatband keeps sweat from trickling down your face. An adjustable Velcro® brand hook-and-loop fastener gives flexibility to accommodate most adult head sizes. Colors available include black, navy, gray and white.

Vantage Apparel UPIC: vantage

Cap America gradient screen cap web

A screen-printed gradient on mesh with color matching undervisor is what separates this low-profile six-panel structured chino twill cap with mesh back from the others. A two-tone adjustable plastic snap tab completes the look. Colors available include black/gold/white, charcoal/lime/white, charcoal/orange/white, charcoal/pink/white, navy/red/white and red/black/white.


heritage quilted trucker web

This new quilted trucker cap is made of 100-percent quilted twill. An unstructured cap with a mid-profile, the cap includes a plastic snap back and is available in color combinations including black/black, grey/black, khaki/brown, light blue/navy.

Heritage Sportswear/Virginia T’s UPIC: HERI0001

Ouray Sportswear Lightweight Epic web

With an unstructured low profile for a relaxed and comfortable fit, the lightweight Epic washed twill cap is the ultra-lightweight version of the original Epic. The pre-formed memory visor keeps its shape and the short Velcro® brand hook-and-loop fastener is dyed to match the hat color. Colors include black, citrus, khaki, lime, mango, Nantucket red, navy, ocean, soft yellow, tidal blue and white.

Ouray Sportswear UPIC: Ouray

Kati Sportcap Sportsman Trucker larger size

Here’s a new twist on the classic trucker. Structured with a mid-profile and six-panel construction, the front of the Sportsman Trucker is 100-percent cotton chino twill. The soft mesh back is 100-percent polyester. Contrast stitching enhances the pre-curved visor, and fabric stripes adorn the side panels. A plastic tab closure ensures a personalized fit.

Kati Sportcap UPIC: KATI

Creative Cap Decoration

While embroidery is the most common cap decoration choice, many other custom accents, such as sublimation, can make your cap really stand out. Anessa Fritch, VP of marketing, Cap America (UPIC: CAPAMRCA), says, "Sublimation is a great way to incorporate different elements of graphics for an organization and provide a unique custom piece such as in a background pattern." Fritch adds that their new woven appliqué program is popular because "woven appliqués allow for more intricate design and smaller detail that you can't achieve with embroidery."

Sublimated Cap web

Take The Next Step

Learn more about important apparel decoration regulations by attending a free PPAI webinar.

What Do You Need To Know To Stay On The Right Side Of Regulations When Decorating Apparel?

Speakers: Sue DeRagon, Associate Director of the Toys and Premiums Group, UL-STR and Mary Poissant, Director of sales and Marketing, Apple Imprints.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Webinar Overview: Find out what your obligations are and who is responsible for ensuring CPSIA compliance when a distributor enlists the services of a third-party decorator to embellish youth apparel. Learn the regulations and how they apply to both parties. Decorators will receive hands-on tips for implementing best practices on the shop floor. Distributors will receive best practices advice on managing the process and completing the necessary documentation. This session is appropriate for distributors and third-party apparel decorators. This session is an elective for the Product Safety Aware program.

Free to PPAI members and non-members

Register at and click on Education and E-Learning.


Beyond Caps …

Wisconsin Knitwear Hats web

Keep toasty warm this winter with one of these custom knit hats. This family-owned business makes all of its knit hats (and other styles) in the U.S. Made of 100-percent high-bulk, turbo spun acrylic yarn, a name or logo can be knitted directly into the material.

Wisconsin Knitwear UPIC: WISCKNIT

Chef Hat web

Perfect for restaurants, outdoor barbeques and any cooking or food-related event, this traditional chef’s hat has a hook-and-loop closure and multi-color digital transfer imprint.

Aprons, Etc. UPIC: APRONS

Case Study

Head Turner

A regional gas station and convenience store that is known for its quality hoagies extended its brand and created many photo ops by getting the president of the company to wear a custom hoagie hat to give his address at major community events and new store grand openings. It went over so well that the limited-edition hats—made in the U.S. by Allentown, Pennsylvania-based Artistic Toy (UPIC: ARTSTOY)— were ordered for several other company executives as well.

Hoagie Hat web

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