Caps get broad exposure, so the imprint and embellishment are key to the accessory's success. "The trend is toward being able to decorate a cap in a variety of areas to make it more brand-centric and more personal," says Bruce Jolesch, president of Garland, TX-based PXP Solutions (asi/78964). Front and back are the most obvious areas, "but side embroidery or a combo embroidery/screen print is quite popular at the moment," he adds.
Creating a cap from scratch lifts many limitations when it comes to decoration. When decorating, having the ability to conceive the cap style and artwork early (before any material is cut or sewn), allows for better results. "Custom overseas manufacturing affords your customers no decoration limitations, high quality and 100% customization, which they don't get when they decorate domestically," says Mitchell Krakower, president of Topwear International (asi/91430).
Here are some top decoration options:
Embroidery: "The most popular decoration on caps is still embroidery," says Catherine Kelly Epstein, business development manager at Fersten Worldwide (asi/53974). "Flat and 3-D embroidery are the most popular. Depending on the logo, we are also seeing increased demand for light back-fill embroidery, 3-D Puff with Bean Stitching, 3-D puff outline embroidery and Criss-Cross embroidery."
The majority of caps are six panels, which is better suited for embroidery, says Krakower. "This is because there is a seam in the front, and printing does not always line up well [with it]," he says. "Of course, if the logo is very intricate or it is a picture, printing or sublimation can be better in that case, but you might be better off switching to a five-panel cap."
Screen Printing: This technique is a challenge and close to a "lost art" when it comes to caps, according to Jolesch. PXP, for example, opts for screen-printed transfers to create the look without the fuss. "A lot of screen-printed caps are most likely produced overseas," Jolesch says. "It can be hard to screen print on a round surface, so you see a lot of screen-printed transfers applied to caps if the distributor does not want it embroidered."
Laser Etching: This technique is effective, says Epstein, but it is fabric and color dependent and cannot be done on all headwear styles and colors. "For the polyester-based headwear styles, we are seeing a lot of requests for laser as well as crown-to-peak laser for decoration," she says. "We are also seeing increased demand for woven labels on headwear, which allow logos with a lot of small details to be applied to caps."
Emblems: Applying emblems and transfers with heat offers many options. "The best emblem styles are those that accommodate the natural curvature and shape of the hat into its design," says Michelle Serrano, marketing coordinator at World Emblem (asi/98264). "Something like our digital print emblems are made on a thin piece of fabric that is pretty flexible and can be easily sewn or heat-sealed onto any hat. Our embroidered patches and appliqués are a popular choice as they are more affordable and can be placed on any part of the cap as well, depending on its size."
Direct screen printing on caps can be difficult, so screen-printed transfers, such as these from Transfer Express (asi/91804; circle 98 on Free Info Card), are a suitable alternative.
Trimax transfers from World Emblem (asi/98264; circle 115 on Free Info Card) allow for on-demand decoration of headwear. The supplier also offers digital print emblems and embroidered patches and appliqués.
Speed Up Heat Tranfers For Headwear
Maximize your heat-applied graphics production on caps with the Hotronix Auto Open Cap heat press from Stahls' ID (asi/88984; circle 116 on Free Info Card). This sturdy unit has a patented magnetic-assisted lockdown, which makes it easy to close, and it automatically pops open at the end of the cycle. With curved upper and lower platens, this press is designed to handle any type of headwear. Interchangeable cap platens are also available, which allow for printing on any style, size or shape of cap. Platens are easy to install. Simply lift off one platen and drop in the new one. No tools are required.