The History of Trucker Hats

The Source for Custom Embroidered Trucker Hats

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Trucker hats are one one of the most popular hat styles we offer. People love the bright colors and comfort that the embroidered trucker hat provides. This guide is a walk down memory lane to the time before trucker hats were popular. If you really don't care about the history of trucker hats that's ok...try our main embroidered hat page instead.

The Humble Origins of the Trucker Hat

Trucker hats sometimes called "dad hats" or "gimme hats" originated in the 1960's as promotional give-aways. They were often handed out in rural communities by agricultural supply companies. No doubt you have seen vintage hats made by John Deere who is often cited as being the company that popularized trucker hats.

As luck would have it, the foam/mesh construction of the trucker hat proved to be a very practical and functional design for rural workers who often worked in hot sunny conditions. Both farmers and truck drivers began wearing these hats as everyday attire and a fashion trend was born.

The trucker hat is constructed using a sweat absorbing foam front and a breathable mesh back. They are a one size fits all design using a plastic closure strap that securely snaps together. Originally these hats were embellished with a printed design. Embroidery was not a popular decoration method back "in the day" as the machines were very expensive and crude.

By the early 2000's trucker hats became a mainstream fashion trend among American suburban youth. It is generally associated with the hip-hop, punk, and skater subcultures. In more recent history the red baseball cap has been associated with a presidential election. However, if you carefully study media images you will discover that many of those red hats are are just plain 6 panel caps and not trucker hats.

Where Are Trucker Hats Made in 2019?

A remarkable number of steps are required to produce a hat of any style. Most of these steps are performed by hand on an industrial sewing machine. Since hats are incredibly labor intensive they are manufactured in countries like China, Bangladesh, and Thailand. Unless you are buying massive quantities and have a long lead time the decoration generally happens here in the United States.

In the early days of Corporate Casuals (1990's) we worked with one of the last US hat producers located in Manchester NH. Our embroidery machines could only stitch on flats so we bought unassembled hats and applied the embroidery in our shop. Then we shipped the embroidered hats back to the manufacturer for final assembly...a logistical nightmare!

For the past 20+ years we have owned modern embroidery machines and have excellent hat suppliers. We routinely take hat orders and then receive the blanks and stitch them the next day. With UPS ground shipping customers in the northeast get their embroidered hats the next day.

How Are Trucker Hats Decorated?

Originally the only practical method available to decorate trucker hats was screen printing. The printing was done on the foam front before it was sewn into a finished hat (shown in above image). This allowed multiple hat fronts to be printed at the same time which aided mass production.

The cost of decorated hats was an important consideration for the companies giving them away. Lower per unit cost means more hats could be handed out which means more customer impressions. A promotional hat is seen 3400 times over its useful life so even a small savings is multiplied many times.

Today the most common decoration methods for trucker hats are screen print and embroidery. Modern embroidery machines have special hoops which allow fully assembled hats to be decorated with an embroidered logo. In the late 90's hats were still sold as "flats" so they could be printed on screen printing equipment used for t-shirts and later stitched together. Today screen printers also have special hoops similar to embroidery machines so fully assembled hats can be printed on any screen printing press.

Are There any Made In the USA Trucker Hats?

Many customers want to support US based manufacturing and are looking for hats made in the USA. While we do carry a few USA made hats, they are fairly expensive as you would expect.

When presented with the high cost, many customers opt for cheaper globally produced hats. They are satisfied knowing that the value added work (worth more than the hat) of embroidery or screen printing is done by a US based workforce. Corporate Casuals owns a clean state of the art production facility in Concord, MA. We pay our workers a living wage and provide benefits. Our production floor is staffed by skilled embroidery machine operators, some who have been with us for decades.

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