Styles That Score a Home Run

You might think that a baseball cap is simply a baseball cap. In reality, there are many versions, looks and features to consider. Caps can range in size, fabric, number of panels and types of bills and closures.

One key difference is ready-made vs. custom. Hundreds of suppliers offer many inventoried styles, some fitted and others one size fits all. The benefits include quick fulfillment and plenty of affordable choices, but that is counterweighted by limitations on how the caps can be decorated.

By contrast, creating a cap from scratch can take much longer (eight weeks for samples and production, with up to another month for shipping), but offers a much more robust selection. "Total customization or manufacturing from scratch is the better way to go when suggesting headwear as a promotional tool," says Mitchell Krakower, president of Topwear International (asi/91430). He suggests that distributors lean on the expertise of companies like his, which can help pick the optimal choice for shape, visor type, number of panels and more. "The headwear company will know the latest trends and the styles that the distributor's customer's demographic will be comfortable wearing," he says.

What else should you consider? On-trend material, for starters. Cotton is a classic casual choice while polyester performance fabrics are very popular. "Performance fabrics look good, they can be waterproof, easy to care for, fast-drying, breathable, moisture-wicking and sun-proof," says Krakower.

Patterns and looks with a fashion-forward vibe add even more appeal. SanMar's "The Style Network 2015 Trends" issue highlights Sporting Luxury – the intersection where fashion meets fitness. Camouflage is key for men, but with an upgrade such as the Sport-Tek CamoHex Cap (STC23). It's a digital, tone-on-tone pattern rather than straightforward camo. Another trend: Varsity designs. A varsity-style cap, like the NE206 from SanMar with a heathered melton wool crown and cotton twill bill, has an old-school collegiate vibe that's definitely current for today's young adults.

The best news: there are year-round opportunities for headwear. Says Dave Porter, vice president of Sportsman Cap & Bag (asi/88877): "A solid strategy will include headwear throughout the year – knits and camouflage in the winter, performance and colors in the summer, rugged and program merchandising in the fall. Headwear used to sell almost entirely in the summer months and now it sells all year."

Hats created from scratch, such as these custom lids from Topwear International (asi/91430;

circle 110 on Free Info Card), offer a wealth of freedom with fabrics, patterns, decoration styles and more.

Fashion styles in baseball caps include this New Era melton wool heather cap (NE206) from SanMar (asi/84863; circle 89 on Free Info Card).

For Good Measure

Customers may know their hat size, but to ensure the perfect fit for sports teams and other groups, you need to know how to measure for a cap. Use a tape measure and place it about a half-inch above the eyebrows. Carefully wrap the tape measure around the head until the ends meet. Check the length you measure against the size chart of the cap brand. For example, a measurement of 21¼ inches might translate to a 6¾ fitted cap or a small for stretch-fitted styles.