One Saturday morning in NoHo, as shoppers formed a line that stretched around the block waiting to enter a bustling neighborhood shop, one young man was given a challenge by the shop workers: would he dunk a basketball over his mom in order to skip the line?
For years, the line outside of lower Manhattan stores was reserved for Supreme, Kith, and a few stores in the SoHo area, but on this Saturday morning, the line — and the opportunity to dunk the basketball—was at Hat Club, a 30-year fixture of lower Manhattan retail.
Hat Club is one of many retailers serving eager collectors who are adding to their fitted cap collection as much as their sneaker one, and even selling hats to consumers in other markets.
Fitted caps, snapbacks, trucker caps, five-panel caps and dad hats have all had their trend moment but according to Austin LaBoda, senior manager, digital marketing at Hat Club, this demand for caps has never been seen before.
“The way the fitted cap has become more of a culture is definitely something I haven’t seen in 10 years in the industry,” LaBoda said.
LaBoda has been in the hat industry for about 10 years, working with 47 Brand and later New Era before joining Hat Club in June. “One of the reasons I came aboard is the culture and community,” he said.
For years, snapbacks and fitted caps have been the go-to accessory to match with sneakers, to show your allegiance to your favorite team or show off logos with cultural cache like Public School’s “WNL” logo that stands for “we need leaders,” Paper Planes’ logo cap that was strictly a gift for friends and family at the beginning, and the recent MOMA New York Yankees cap and Fear of God cap.
This new energy is all about details and could be traced to Hat Club’s pink bottom caps. Brooklyn-based rapper Frosty Preme pitched a New York Yankees 1996 World Series cap with pink under the bill to hat designer Justin Farnham as a tribute to Preme’s birth year and his mother, who passed away due to breast cancer. Farnham brought the idea to lead designer Jon Nguyen, they presented it to New Era and in less than three months, the style was in stores.
The pink bottom cap was a massive success that led to more colorful bottoms, like the icy blue bottom that is also coveted.
LaBoda said about the pink bottom cap, “It’s something that our community has been super passionate about. It’s a core product and something we continue to have marketing and hype behind. People want to connect to likeminded people and people with common interests.”
The colorful bottom is the next iteration of the undervisor debate. Collectors search for green bottoms as that was the style worn by athletes in the ’90s, and they all tend to avoid the black undervisors, which LaBoda said tend to not sell well.
“People are using bots to buy hats now,” said David Marshall, founder of L’Academy, a Los Angeles-based brand that launched with trucker caps and expanded into apparel. “People are buying hats like they’re buying shoes.”
They’re flipping them, too. Resale sites like StockX show Aime Leon Dore x New Era New York Yankees navy caps from fall 2020 that originally sold for $65 are now being offered for over $100. One size, a 7 7/8, is being offered for as high as $599. Other callouts included Philadelphia Phillies caps by My Fitteds that are reselling for $175 on Grailed, and a pink and brown Spumoni Pack Chicago Cubs cap by Hat Club that is listed as high as $300 on Grailed.
The L’Academy founder acquired an affinity for caps in the Midwest where he grew up but preferred trucker caps as a more fashion-forward piece. “The hype culture with the fitted caps is like the kids reselling sneakers, but the trucker caps are the more stylish kids. The kids that wear [Takahiro Miyashita’s brand] Number (N)ine wear truckers.”
Marshall launched L’Academy in 2020 and hosted a pop-up in Brooklyn offering a rainbow spectrum of caps bearing the brand logo: a repurposed Lakers “L” with a leaf as an apostrophe. He believes that with brands like Amiri producing trucker caps, “that’s where the market is right now,” he said.
Even so, he and LaBoda believe the consumer is pining for details. LaBoda said consumers have studied caps to the point that they analyze the guts, or inside, of a cap like the sweatband color. And Marshall knows a reseller that studies the make and manufacturing location of New Era caps and other brands.