Custom Embroidered Hats Buying Tips
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 expense 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.
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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 from sewing together six triangular panel pieces. Some hats have less 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!
"Gilligan" Shows Off His Signature Look Bucket Style Hat
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 cottons 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 fisherman 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.
- Trucker Hats. In general, the same style as a baseball cap, except that the structured crown is 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. Usually has a firm visor on the front, though if 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.
- Visors. Though shaped similar 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.
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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 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 products 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 debossed leather patches can be sewn on or adhered to the hat surface, typically on the front or sides. Click here to watch a video explaining what debossed leather is.
- 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.
Disclaimer: Examples used are for educational and illustrative purposes only and do not suggest endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.
© 2014 Heidi Thorne