Topping Off Your Hat Promotions
It’s said that the tradition of wearing a hat in daily life went out of fashion after President John F. Kennedy chose not to wear one on his Inauguration Day in 1961. Decades later, you’ll no longer see a gaggle of commuters donning top hats and fedoras on the way to work anymore, but you will see that baseball caps and other headwear items have carved a place in the casual wardrobe. For the promotional products industry, Kennedy’s fashion statement may have been a boon, as it paved the way for the rise of the super-casual, endlessly imprintable cap.
Caps and other casual headwear items are perfect for companies that want to display their brands. Caps are like billboards with personality. It says something that end-users would choose to wear a brand they enjoy or want to represent. It demonstrates a personal connection that does wonders for any brand image. We spoke to Joey Knight, assistant division director for Paramount Apparel International Inc., Bourbon, Mo.; and Cameron Niederhauser, sales executive for Dri Duck Traders, Overland Park, Kan., for some advice on how to put caps on top of clients’ minds.
Like all fashion categories, headwear tends to cycle in and out of trends as the years go on. According to Knight, retro styles have been winning out recently. “Clearly, in the last couple of years, the trucker or mesh-back cap has returned to challenge our long-standing best sellers,” she said. “As with all things, what was old is new again, and the retro look is overwhelmingly popular. Variations of the trucker abound, with the most popular being those with softer mesh backs and those having bright neon contrasting mesh panels. If a distributor is not including a mesh-back cap in their headwear presentations, their competitors will be.”
Niederhauser said that caps and headwear have been following a larger trend in the apparel industry to feature performance fabrics.
“We’ve seen a lot of momentum behind athletic and performance headwear,” he said. “While cottons and twills will always own the space, performance fabrics have really exploded in the imprintable market.”
Beanies and other knitted caps are all the rage recently as well, Knight said. “Interestingly enough, while the harsher winters certainly drive demand, many are wearing these items year round as a statement,” she said.
Logo-bearing caps are a fashion statement now more than ever, and the last thing fashion-conscious end-users want is a flimsy piece of headwear. Both our experts warned against selling caps that are destined for a short life span.
“We often tell people that there’s no bigger waste of money than a cap that no one wants to wear,” Niederhauser said. “If something isn’t durable or is generally uncomfortable or unattractive, it’s not going to get worn. We start with the premise that, for a cap to have value, it must be durable and it must be comfortable. It’s just not worth it to us to compromise on those two points just to save a few pennies or even a few dollars.”
Where to Sell
Our experts agreed that the most reliable markets are those that need headwear for utility, not just for branding purposes. Repeat business is more likely to come from clients who are looking to fill a need as well as to hold a promotion.
“This is one reason that industries that revolve around working outdoors are big headwear users,” Niederhauser said. “Their hats are being used for performance and sun protection.”
Knight listed traditional markets that still represent the bulk of headwear sales. She said to look at manufacturing, construction, material supply, agriculture, automotive, chemical, trucking, railroads, schools, colleges, universities and financial institutions.
“Recently, microbrewers and distillers and now the legalized cannabis trade are becoming significant consumers of headwear for advertising and marketing purposes,” she added.
Knight assured distributors not to consider the seeming complexity of the headwear market intimidating.
“While the options in shape, style and decoration are seemingly endless, the basics you really need to know to get a cap project started [are] whether the client would like the front panels to be structured or non-structured and what type of back strap they would like—cloth with slide buckle, Velcro or plastic snap.”