Tap Into Team Pride

Custom caps are hot with these top six custom headwear trends.

You aren’t really a member (or fan) of the team unless you have a custom cap to prove it. Originally developed to protect a player’s eyes from the sun while on the field, baseball caps have evolved from a simple, functional head covering to one of the most coveted pieces of every athlete’s sports kit.

It doesn’t matter what kind of team they are on — football, soccer, lacrosse, rowing, skiing, heck, even the dance and chess team members want caps. And so do their parents, grandparents and other fans.

Hats come in every conceivable style, shape, size, fabric and color. There is literally no end to the number of different types of caps. While it’s great to “have choices,” it’s easy to become overwhelmed when selecting the right cap for any given job. It helps to be familiar with headwear lingo.

Cap Terms

When shopping for caps, you will hear words like low-profile, six-panel, five-panel, pro-style, oversized, foam front, full crown and low crown. If you look closely, you’ll find these words perfectly describe the appearance of each cap.

In addition, these styles can be structured – with backing behind the two front panels that give a stiffer appearance – or unstructured, with no backing for a more form fitting look.

In addition, caps are made from a variety of fabrics. There are foam front caps with mesh backing, polyester blends, wool blends, cotton twills and even caps made from polyester mesh.

Choosing Your Print Method

Once you have determined the right cap for the job, the next step is selecting the decoration method. It used to be the only acceptable, high-quality finish for a team cap was direct embroidery. Custom embroidery is still widely used as a highly desirable cap custom cap decorating choice. Direct screenprinting is also a common and widely used approach.

But both direct embroidery and direct screenprinting have several drawbacks when it comes to printing custom caps on demand — both can be labor intensive and costly and usually only make sense when you are printing large quantities. This is where heat printing comes into the mix.

You will find more and more hats featuring heat printing graphics, including stock embroidered lettering, screenprinted transfers, molded plastic patches, engraved leather patches and 3D embroidery. Each heat printing method results in a different look.

However, the biggest benefit of heat printing is it allows you to accomplish many of the latest hat decorating trends, even for one-off or smaller quantity jobs, such as teams.

Top Six Hat Printing Trends

Let’s take a closer look at some of the hottest fashion trends when it comes to hats.

1. Autographed Caps

A big trend at the popular custom cap stores and caps purchased in stadiums is adding a player’s autograph (for around $14) to the side of the cap. This is usually done with embroidery and is a licensed product. But it’s on-demand customization that a buyer can add. You can mimic this trend using heat transfer vinyl.  

2. Adding Player Names or Numbers

Instead of having the coach or parent take a Sharpie marker and add the player’s name to the inside of the cap, why not use heat transfer vinyl to add player names? It looks great and if a cap is misplaced, it is easily returned.

There are heat transfer vinyls designed for detailed and small lettering, so make sure you use one of those. Names added to caps would normally be under one-inch in height. You can also use pre-cut stock numbers to add player numbers.

3. Off-Center Logo Placement

Logos do not have to go smack in the middle of the front of the cap any more to look cool. In fact, many companies and teams today are positioning their logo on the lower left or lower right front panel. It’s also a great way to avoid creasing when heat printing.

If you are talented enough you can even pull off this heat printing job using a flat garment press. Just slip the cap over the corner of the press. This method would require some trial and error, so you are better off using a hat press designed for caps.

4. Decorating Under the Bill

Adding customization under the bill is another huge hat decorating trend. This is another great location for adding a player’s name. You’ll also notice this hot branding trend in other sports, such as motocross, where companies like Yamaha add their brand under the bill so it’s more noticeable in close-ups. Keep in mind it’s best to select a flat billed cap when printing on the bill.

Some heat press manufacturers have special heat platens you can install on your garment press to accommodate several cap bills at one time. This allows for more efficient printing for larger orders. You can print curved bills, but it requires a bit more experience.

5. 3D Embroidery, PVC and Leather Patches

While leather patches may not be used frequently by leagues or teams, they are a big favorite with fans. A big trend for baseball caps is the use of 3D embroidered patches that add high-quality dimension to any cap. PVC or plastic, molded type logos are also very popular.

Keep in mind that thicker patches and emblems in this category need bottom platen heat to adhere properly and prevent flattening of the patch itself. A bottom heat platen hat press activates the adhesive where it is needed, underneath the patch, creating a better bond and no damage to the cap or patch.

6. Full Color Digital Screenprinted Transfers

You will probably be hard-pressed to find a screenprinter willing to say “the sky’s the limit” when it comes to printing multi-color logos on caps. The difficulty in screenprinting on caps, especially when it comes to full color logos, is high. Not to mention the costs involved.

Now there are alternatives if you need a full-color logo on a cap thanks to digital screenprinted transfers. These transfers give you the freedom to print logos in any number of colors, including finely detailed lettering. When ordering transfers for use on caps, it’s recommended to keep your maximum size about 4.5 inches. This will easily fit on your cap press and make application easier.

Custom Caps Are Game Changers

The ability to create custom caps in-house can be a game changer for anyone currently selling uniform kits, no matter what the sport. If you offer this service it sets you apart from customers who do not.

Custom caps are the perfect upsell to any uniform order and they can be very profitable. Don’t be intimidated by the wide variety of headwear available — there truly is a way to customize just about any type of cap.

You know that feeling kids get when they put on a custom printed sports jersey for the first time? The pride of wearing a good looking custom cap that represents their team is just as strong. Tap into the demand for custom caps and you are tapping into a new and highly profitable market segment.

About the author: John Loucks has been helping people learn how to print custom uniforms and caps for over 13 years as the national sales manager for Stahls’. He can be reached at

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