Trends - Headwear Primer

Target New Markets With The Growing Cap-Wearing Crowds

Young consumers are increasingly wearing hats of all kinds. In fact, the American Headwear Association reports that use of caps among 18- to 34-year-olds has increased by nearly 40% over the past five years. Offer a trendy hat, and it's bound to be worn and generate instant brand recognition. Here are a few trends that are causing mass cases of hat hair.

Performance Attributes
The standby cotton twill cap is a durable favorite, but you know that athletic activity can cause it to take on the saturated quality of an unsqueezed sponge. That's why end-users increasingly want caps with athletic performance features like moisture-wicking sweatbands and cool lightweight fabrics. The caps are favorites of a variety of end-buyers – everything from marathons and fun runs to health-care companies and sports teams.

Safety Features
David Goldman, vice president of Pennsauken, NJ-based Philadelphia Rapid Transit (asi/77945), says tastes are trending toward performance caps with safety features, like high-visibility coloring and/or reflective piping. The headwear supplier has sold safety-feature caps to distributors for outdoor work wear for sanitation workers, as well as a pet products company that gave the hats to dog walkers, making them more visible on evening and morning walks.

Made in the USA
Abe Miller, owner of Cleveland-based Graffiti Headwear (asi/57907), says a growing number of end-buyers want to purchase domestically-made caps and hats. "We used to sell 50% import/50% domestic, but now it's more like 90% domestic," Miller says. "There's been a huge increase in demand. Import costs have gone up, and it's not as easy to get goods out of China. Plus, people are becoming more conscious of where things are made."

Straw Hats
Styles that are selling well for Philly Rapid include the straw gambler hat and straw cowboy hat. The straw gambler – think golfer Greg Norman's classic hat – is especially popular with companies hosting golf outings as well as organizations looking to protect employees from the sun, such as zoos, theme parks and stadiums. An American icon, the straw cowboy hat is perfect for Western-themed events. "We did a program last summer with a minor league baseball team that was doing a country and Western theme," says Goldman.

Five-Panel Caps and Snapbacks
Six-panel hats are the standard everyone knows, but five-panel caps have crept back into vogue. "It's an advantage because they're easier for embroiderers and screen printers to decorate," says Miller, noting there has been a movement to re-embrace snapback closures. "It's big right now; you see signs in malls saying, ‘We have adjustable caps!' "

Dye-Sublimation
"With dye-sub, you can really take a company's identity and transfer it onto a piece of headwear," says Miller, adding that Graffiti builds dye-sub caps from scratch. "You can really nail the colors and logo. It's like conveying a photograph onto fabric."