Dad Hats: What Makes This Cap a Timeless Classic?

Picture this. You're sporting an item of clothing that's stereotypically designated for dads. A pair of flared jeans? A checkered flannel? Whatever it is, wearing 'dad clothing' may earn your fashion sense a wide range of insults, from outdated to ill-fitting.

But for dad hats, this couldn't be further from the truth. We're about to tell you why.

So, what is this 'dad hat' we speak of? From face value, a dad hat looks very similar to a baseball cap. There are noticeable differences, however, that clearly set them apart. To start with, dad hats are made of six soft triangular panels, with a button on top and a metal clasp at the back. They're made of canvas or cotton and have a slightly curved brim. Baseball caps are harder and have more structure, however, and tend to be flashier. They have a snapback and can be plastered with bold, bright logos. The classic dad hat is relaxed and subtle, which is perhaps why it has always been such a popular choice. And it looks like it will be for many years to follow.

When was the Dad Hat brought into existence?

They've been around for a long, long time, always floating in fashion's background. Up until the 1970s, the wear of baseball caps was mainly restricted to the sporting fields. It was only a few decades later, when the younger generations claimed this cap for their own, that it transcended into a new realm altogether. With new hype and fresh styles, some wanted to get away from the tall, towering structure that the baseball cap boasted. It was a little rigid and perhaps not as comfortable as it could've been. Therefore, sports players, jocks and frat boys used to put their Nautica and Yale hats in the dishwasher to wear them down, earning them the name 'whitehats'.

It didn't stop there. According to the New York Times writer Troy Patterson, some took to cutting up the traditional cap and slicing out the buckram, (the stiff fabric that makes the cap stand tall), from the front seam, in order to break the bill's curve and make it more relaxed. The fabric would then mold to the crown of the head better, ensuring a more comfortable wear. The 90s saw lots of distress in terms of clothing! It seemed people were determined to shred and chop up anything they could get their hands on. They were seeking a more distressed look to their fashion - it was a time when something that looked worn was something that looked stylish.

Dad hats are a perfect, subtle addition to any outfit. They can be worn with most looks, arguably best suited to crewneck sweatshirts or cotton shorts, for example. Their oversized fit means they can be flattering on any head shape, and their sufficient breathability ensures good use during those hotter months. Due to their striking resemblance to the standard baseball cap, they can also be used as just that.


How did the Dad Hat get its Name?

During their early days, they were an extremely hot trend, seen on every head in the country. For example, New Era signed with the MLB (Major League Baseball) in 1993, and they recognized the onset of this hat, later becoming the exclusive supplier of caps for the players. Additionally, Spike Lee sparked demand by ordering red Yankees hats a few years later, which still thrive today.

But as with every trend, however, they soon slipped down the popularity ladder. According to the co-owner of the '47 brand, Steven D'Angelo, the dad hat was fashionable from 1995 to 2003. These hats were inexpensive to produce and easily branded, shoved in promotional and merchandise bags at every event in sight. They became less rare and more of a bore. Although the initial trend grew cold, it still simmered behind the scenes until the middle generation picked it up - namely, the dads.

These hats were now spotted on middle-aged men, who tended to wear them with the rather questionable flared jeans and checkered flannels mentioned above.

But then, dad hats slowly started to creep back into relevancy. They were favored for their comfort and convenience. As with most vintage or retro items, there's always a space for them in the fashion market, and soon enough, generations were sporting them once again. Young people took a shine to them, but of course, the dads still claimed their hat.


What makes a REAL Dad Hat?

The beauty of a dad hat is its subtlety. Although they are sometimes accompanied by motifs or logos, on the whole, they tend to be much plainer. As they say, simplicity is key, and you may find that wearing a block color hat compliments your outfit better. The whole charm of the dad hat is how simple it truly is. They don't need to be flashy, and basic colors such as sand, navy or black are more often than not, the most popular choices. If you are looking to break boundaries and step outside the box a little, shades of red and purple, for example, can be found by a quick Internet browse. Most are inclined to pick black, as it'll guarantee them many wears.

They're extremely easy to source, filling the shelves of most shops. Many brands have jumped on this reignited trend, from high street businesses such as Topman, Adidas and Champion, to top end designers such as Burberry, Gucci and Givenchy. However, on this rare occasion, high-end fashion hasn't been able to steal this trend. Most customers still sway towards choosing the cheaper options, and rightly so. Which would you choose - a dad hat for $400 or just $4? Exactly. We don't blame you.

Dad hats should not be investment pieces, and it's not necessary to splurge the cash buying one. Besides, expensive purchases will be worn for a few months, and then pushed to the back of the cupboard, donated, or simply forgotten about. Wasting your money in this day and age is not a wise thing to do! Buying them for only a few dollars ties in with their purpose wonderfully.

The whole point of the dad hat, though, is how unproblematic it is. They're comfortable and subtle, a low-key addition to any outfit. Money-wise, they're great to produce, and due to their flash-fast production time, they can be turned out quickly with relevant, up-to-date memes and funny slogans that'll appeal to a huge audience. This is one way companies and merchandise businesses make money, and make it fast.

Speaking of audiences, celebrities also have a major part in the revival of the dad hat. As we know already, those with fame have the marvelous ability to convince their following to buy absolutely anything. During the rise of hip hop fashion in 2016, rappers popularized dad hats, leading the 'fresh, cool trend' among teens. People such as Drake, Kanye West and Bryson Tiller sported them, causing interest and demand to boom. North West, the daughter of Kim Kardashian and Kanye, has also been seen rocking a dad hat, (paired with a $3500 coat, mind). It's evident that wearing them on a more casual occasion is best - the youngers of society have adopted this viral fashion trend and transformed its purpose.

Luckily for you, they're easily customizable and designable. It's optional to adorn your dad hat with stickers and logos, but they're certainly not the essence. These hats tend to feature a detailed embroidery design instead, contributing to their casual feel. French teen Alexandre Daillance proved just how easy it can be to produce this accessory. Along with a group of friends, he sold dad hats at the French boutique, Collette. They were sold for around $60, despite only costing $7 to make per hat! Daillance himself said, 'it's the only kind of hat accepted by all the classes of society'.

And he's completely right. No matter who you are or where you come from, a dad hat is never too far away from your grasp. They have a personable and approachable kind of symbolism, a cultural statement for many. At times, they can be used as a billboard for social action and movement, including peaceful protesting or simply getting across an important point of view. They really are key to fashion.

With a name like 'dad hat', they have the ability to be super catchy and latch on quickly. Although a brand-new marketing chance for businesses in this industry, the actual hats are nothing new. They've been lingering for many, many decades. At times, they may have been overshadowed by other types of hat, but they've always stood their own ground. They're the perfect tool for the sunshine, a bad hair day or just a casual event. Either way, don't overthink it.

The Takeaway on Dad Hats

Overall, dad hats are soft, comfortable hats made with cotton and a slightly-curved bill. They're cheap to both produce and buy, and although logos are optional, wearing a block color hat seems to be the way to go.