Heidi Thorne is a promotional products expert and author of SWAG: How to Choose and Use Promotional Products for Marketing Your Business.
Branded custom embroidered hats have always been tops (no pun intended!) in the promotional giveaways arena. However, they have been slipping a bit in popularity, likely due to a variety of factors including expenses and changes in consumer tastes. But they still command a 5.6% of all promotional products sold by distributors according to the Counselor 2013 State of the Industry Report by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI).
Custom hats have traditionally been popular in male dominant market segments. However, for some events—charity walks, golf outings, and other outdoor activities—they can be winners with both men and women.
Custom Hat Construction
A typical promotional baseball hat is constructed of several pieces:
- Crown: Top portion of hat that fits close to the head. It is usually shaped by sewing together six triangular panel pieces. Some hats have fewer panels, with the front panel being without a seam to accommodate imprinting processes. The crown can be structured or unstructured. Structured styles feature stiffening materials in the front to make the crown stand up and sit higher on the wearer's head. Unstructured styles have no stiffening and a lower profile when worn. Styles also vary on crown height with shorter measurements fitting closer to the head.
- Visor: Made of very stiff fabric or other materials, the visor is at the front of the cap to help shield the wearer from sun exposure.
- Closures: Except for custom-fitted hats (rare in the promotional industry), most baseball style hats feature a strap and closure at the back to custom fit the hat to the wearer's head. Common closure types include fabric strap and buckle, Velcro® or other hook-and-loop tabs, or plastic tabs. The most durable closures are fabric strap and hook-and-loop.
- Button at top: Just for decoration!
Styles of Custom Hats
While traditional custom baseball caps are probably the most popular option, other styles have emerged on the scene, too.
The following are the most commonly available embroidered hat styles in today's promotional markets.
Baseball Caps (or Golf Caps)
Just like those worn by baseball players and golfers everywhere.
- Fits close to the head with a firm visor in the front to protect the wearer's face from sun exposure.
- The crown (fitted top portion) of hat can either be structured (with a stiff fabric back in the front of the crown to make it stand up) or unstructured (entire top is soft fabric).
- A variety of closure styles are available, usually including a fabric strap with a metal buckle or Velcro closure. Some lower-cost models use a plastic strap and buckle.
- Fabric weights vary from the lightweight cotton for warm weather to heavy cotton or wool blends appropriate for winter wear.
- Generally, the heavier the fabric, the more expensive the hat.
Beanie or Knit Caps
Years ago these were often referred to as knit hats or stocking caps. Same thing! But now they're commonly referred to as "beanies."
- These are either knitted or made of a knit fabric that stretches to fit the wearer's head.
- The bottom of the hat may feature a rolled cuff at the bottom for added warmth or style.
- Popular for outdoor winter and sports promotions.
Bucket or Fisherman
According to Wikipedia, the bucket hat has Irish origins, offering protection for the eyes and face (and ears!) from sun and rain.
- Some may more easily recognize it as a hat that fishermen wear.
- It features an all-around soft brim and usually has a shorter height soft crown than traditional baseball caps.
- Looks very similar to the hat worn by "Gilligan" on the classic television sitcom Gilligan's Island.
- Popular for warm weather and markets such as gardeners.
- In general, the same style as a baseball cap, except that the structured crown usually stands taller.
- The sides and back are typically made of a mesh fabric to help keep the wearer cool.
- While these have been mostly associated with trucking and trades markets, some younger audiences have curiously taken an interest in the style.
Military or Field Caps
- These caps look like those sported by the military with a crown that has straight sides, a flat top, and a front visor.
- Sometimes also called a field cap or patrol cap (Wikipedia).
- Usually has a firm visor on the front, though it may be shorter than those on a traditional baseball cap.
- The crown height varies.
- Recently, this style has been popular with edgy, fashion-forward promotional markets.
Though shaped similarly to a traditional baseball cap, visors have a crown that is open at the top. This helps keep the wearer cool. Popular for tennis, golf, or other summer outdoor activities.
Custom Embroidered Hats Decorating Options
The primary embroidery decoration location is the front of the crown (the fitted top portion of a standard baseball-style cap). Using more locations gives a promotional hat marketing exposure at multiple angles. However, it can end up looking cluttered if too many locations are used. As well, the more locations that need to be decorated, the more expensive each hat gets... sometimes very expensive.
The most common decorating locations for decorating hats include:
- Front of crown (fitted area of the hat): This is the most commonly used and highly visible location for embroidering a company logo.
- Sides of hat: The area available for embroidery or other decorating is quite small, but is a good location for promotion or event sponsors.
- Back of hat: Like the sides of the hat, the back has limited area for decorating. But often a company name or tagline is embroidered just above the closure (on a traditional baseball cap).
- Visor: This is a less likely location because it may be difficult or impossible to physically embroider on a visor's stiffer surface. On completely custom made designs it may be an option since the visor material can be embroidered prior to construction and assembly. Discuss with a promotional product distributor or decorator if this decorating area is of interest.
- Beanie cuffs or edges: On beanie style caps, a rolled cuff would be embroidered. For uncuffed styles, the embroidery is typically placed above the lower front edge.
In addition to embroidery, there are other decorating options that may be available including:
- Patches: Embroidered or printed fabric and printed or
- Imprinting: Some fabric imprinting processes can produce heavy enough ink coverage to be used on hats. This can provide a lower-cost alternative to embroidery.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Heidi Thorne
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on November 18, 2014:
Yes, Lisa perce, indeed they are! Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!
Lisa perce on November 18, 2014:
Well said, Hats are obviously favorite of all men.
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 20, 2014:
Aw, thanks, billybuc! Appreciate the kind words and support as always. Heading out to Easter lunch now. Cheers!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 20, 2014:
Your fountain of knowledge once again runneth over. If anyone needs to know about marketing, you are the person to turn to. Happy Easter, Heidi!
Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 20, 2014:
Yep, FlourishAnyway, guys get so into the free (or even purchased!) promo hats. Hubby has a whole collection. But what really puzzles me is the younger crowds who are drawn to those trucker hats and beanies. How did those trends get started? Hey, as long as people keep buying promotional goodies like this, they can buy 'em all! :)
Thanks for stopping by and have a delightful Easter!
FlourishAnyway from USA on April 19, 2014:
Well done, Heidi! hats are definitely a favorite, especially with the guys.