Ask an Expert: Create Stand-Out Hats

Making a cap that draws someone’s attention involves a lot of planning.

3D foam embroidery is a great way to add perceived value to a hat design. Photo courtesy of Madeira USA.


Q: My client wants hats that stand out from the crowd. What are some bold or nontraditional methods I can suggest?

Making a hat that draws someone’s attention involves a lot of planning. More is not always better and less is not always good. Things to think about include: What type hat are you using, how easy is it to add embellishment, how much time do you have to complete your job, how much is your customer willing to spend to get what they are asking for, and are you really ready to take on the task?

Some hats are easier to embroider than others. If you are experienced and feel comfortable enough to embroider several locations, then you can do everything in-house. If not, then contact a company with a custom program. The all-over embroidery look that is popular right now, especially with sports-themed hats, is an involved process. Typically, embroidery is added to each cap panel, then the panels are stitched together, lining up the design to make it appear it’s been done after the cap was constructed. With this method, you can even embroider the bill of the cap. This program, however, requires several weeks to complete, and orders are typically for at least 24 dozen. Most companies doing programs like this will even do the digitizing for you, with no setup charges, because it takes special digitizing skills to ensure the panels line up properly. That takes some of the pressure off you. To distinguish yourself from the competition, you could have some of the hat embroidery done by a panel program, and then add your own touch when the cap arrives at your shop.

So, one way to create an attention-getting hat involves lots of stitches, lots of time and ordering lots of hats. Another way is through multimedia. 3D foam is great for adding dimension and texture. It’s very easy to stitch and adds what the industry calls “perceived value.” It makes the item look expensive and doesn’t take a lot of work. You can charge more for items like this. Just the hat itself can draw the attention you want without requiring lots of embroidery.

Twenty years ago you had very few choices when ordering hats. Most were foam front and mesh backs. Then came the hard-as-a-rock front that could break needles to pieces and were hard to hoop and even harder getting the embroidery straight. Now with the softer, easier-to-hoop hats, there are also so many color combinations, fabrics and styles. Some even have the bills already embellished. By adding a stripe or different-color panels, you can get by with only a pop of color in your embroidery. It’s the hat itself that draws attention. With just a small amount of embroidery, again you have the “perceived value” look. In this case, the hat does all the work, and the embroidery really draws everything together.


Brian Burr is the chief operations officer of Wholesale Apparel. He has roughly two decades of experience in custom embroidery and hat decoration.