Get Your Head In The Game


The National Museum of American History’s online exhibition, Treasures of American History, notes that “A hat is much more than a practical device for keeping one’s head warm. As a symbol of identity, it also reveals much about the wearer’s occupation, social class, cultural heritage and personal style.”

From armor helmets and headdresses to fedoras and cowboy hats, headwear has always walked the line between status symbol and protector from the elements. 

As current fashions shift more toward street style, beanies, caps and athletic headbands are dominating the market. A recent Wall Street Journal article noted the ubiquity of ball caps, even among luxury brands. For example, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Balenciaga all offer high-end caps. 

As more Millennials become parents, the low-profile, close-fitting dad hat has become a popular suburban look. “We’re noticing that older trends are coming back in style, like dad hats instead of snapbacks,” says Kevin Johnstone, director of marketing for FPS Apparel (PPAI 273314). “Our customers like that they can customize a variety of components on hats, such as woven tags and custom brims,” he adds.

Gary Mosley, vice president of Kati Sportcap & Bag (PPAI 113758), notes that a younger, edgier crowd may prefer a trucker or hipster style. “Trucker hats, like our Richardson hat, are dominating the market,” he says. “We foresee products like these to remain at the height of headwear trends due to their variety of colors, overall quality and universal popularity.”

Women like the look and functionality of a ball cap, too, particularly in the U.S. Unless they’re heading to the Kentucky Derby or a viewing party for the latest royal wedding, American women sporting head coverings are likely to be wearing athletic caps or headbands to complement their other athleisure pieces.

“Headwear is a great promotional item, as most styles are reasonably priced and very visible,” says Mosley. “I always tell distributors to tell their customers, ‘Make sure you’re offering a cap that will be worn. What use is a promotional cap if it’s in someone’s closet?’”


Maximize Profitability With Custom Headwear

by Cliff Quicksell, MAS+

The average man owns eight promotional caps, and they are a popular accessory for women. Every time a branded cap is worn, the message is reinforced, making caps an excellent marketing tool. With custom headwear, your options are limited by only your imagination. Think beyond the static product. For example:

  • There are more than 26 components on a cap that can be customized, including the strap, seam tape, sweat band, visor, undervisor, button, eyelets and panels.
  • The seam tape alone can have three accent colors and distinct messages, such as safety, a web address, core values or co-branding. 
  • There are close to 100 types of back closures, including slide toggles, Velcro and molded vinyl.
  • Even the label can be custom woven.

In addition, there are countless decoration or embellishment techniques such as direct print four-color process, embroidery, mixed media, liquid metal, textured embellishment, chenille, sublimation, flock printing, Lextra™ and laser printing. 

New fabric trends are emerging as well. Does your client want high-tech mesh or soft-tech mesh? Moisture-wicking fabric or gray flannel? Reflective thread or one of the other 3,000 color options? Think like a kid and present all the possibilities—if you’re too over-the-top, your customer will reel you in.

Work with your supplier to get a virtual sample to show your customer. Let your client touch it, feel it and try it on. Follow this Chinese proverb: Tell me, and I forget. Show me, and I may remember. Engage me, and I understand.

Have a retail mindset, and look for ways to add value, such as merchandising and packaging. Suggested pricing by our suppliers is just that: a suggestion. Get paid for your creativity, always think custom and sell the “why.”

Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, is director of marketing for distributor iPROMOTEu. He presented Put A Lid On It: Selling Headwear for Profit© at Expo East 2018. The full session is available at 


Case Studies

Cool It
The committee for a summer 5K/10K run was looking for items to include in the registrants’ gift bags. They chose the Cooling Headband, which wicks moisture away from the skin, dries quickly and provides UPF 30 sun protection. To activate the cooling agent, participants simply had to soak the headband in water, wring out the excess and give it a few shakes.

The day of the race was sunny and warm, so many of the runners pulled them out of their bags and used them right away. The headbands were well received because of their immediate usefulness in keeping participants cool and providing an extra layer of protection from the summer sun.
Source: Beacon Promotions

Hats Off To Team Spirit
A distributor was working with a school that, in the past, had ordered Cap America’s Elite Knits with only the mascot and school name. However, the basketball team wanted a unique design exclusively for team members and coaches.

The school ordered custom beanies for the boys’ team and ear bands for the girls’ team. The athletes loved the apparel, and the designs were so popular that the school ended up placing a larger order for beanies, ear bands, knit caps and scarves. The teams sold these pieces to fans to raise money for summer skills camps. 
Source: Cap America


Hang Your Hat On These Classic Caps

by Ryen Campbell, content strategist for Cap America

At Cap America, we’re reviewing current trends to move forward with new styles for 2019. While we’re considering a couple of trendier styles like the five-panel camp hat and a flat bill snap back, we’ve realized that there are a few tried and true styles that will always rank among the top sellers, especially in the promotional products industry. For us and other suppliers, three caps outshine the others: the trucker, the dad hat and the modified flat bill. 

1. The Trucker
The trucker hat is especially notable for the promotional products industry, as the foam front, mesh back caps originated as giveaways at truck stops by companies wanting to advertise their products. Besides the foam front and mesh back, this cap style normally sports a plastic snap closure and a slightly curved bill, although some modern versions have a flat brim. Recently, the term “Trucker Hat” has been used more loosely, becoming synonymous with a mesh back cap. 

2. The Dad
Another extremely popular hat style, and one that seems to be timeless, is what is referred to as the “Dad Hat.” This style is a low profile, unstructured cotton hat. While the closures can vary, a fabric strap is the most common. This hat befits a casual, laid back style, and is popular among all ages. 

3. The Modified Flat Bill
Finally, the most modern style of the three mentioned here: the modified flat bill. Considered a trendier option while not being as off-putting to some as a full flat bill, this style is normally a six-panel mesh back cap with a snap tab closure. This type of cap works not only for corporate settings, but sporting teams and athleisure styles as well. It’s very common to see this style accented with brightly colored mesh and more non-traditional color combinations. 

Cap trends come and go, but the trucker and the dad cap are two classics that have stood the test of time, and the modified flat bill is a more modern design that is here to stay. With these staple styles, promotional products marketers can’t go wrong. 


For specific product ideas, please refer to the flipbook.

Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.

Read time:
Comments (0)
Leave a reply