If you have been asking yourself about the terminology “snapback” and “strapback”, then this article will explain all.
The names for each type of cap come from the closure mechanism that each cap uses: A snapback cap is adjusted using a plastic snap closure at the back of the cap, while a strapback cap has a strapped closure. It’s really that simple, though conventional snapback and strapback caps will have other differences too.
The Snapback Closure
As the name suggests, the closure of the snapback works by snapping two plastic straps together. The strap with raised nodules (called connectors) lies behind the strap with holes. The “connector” strap is called the snap side, while the “hole” strap is fittingly called the hole side. By aligning the connectors of the snap side with the holes of the hole side, and pushing the connectors through, the connectors snap into place, securing the straps, and setting the size for the cap. Cap size is adjusted by unfastening the two sides of the closure and horizontally realigning them, before re-snapping the sides into place. Most snap closures are made from a polyester plastic, and sport one row of seven connectors and seven holes on the two respective parts of the closure. The closure mechanism can also be made with two rows of connectors and holes on the two parts, but this is uncommon. As plastics can easily be made into many colours, the colour variety for these components is high, allowing the cap closure to complement the colour of the crown. However, the potential for colour replication will naturally be higher with strapback caps, as the strap of the cap will normally have been made from the same fabric as the crown, and dipped in the same dye, producing an exactly matching colour, and texture.
The Strapback Closure
The standard closure for a strapback is made of the same fabric as the crown, and is secured with a buckle. One of the closure straps will have a double-loop buckle at its tip, while the longer, second strap will be fastened by putting it through the double-loop buckle of the first strap. A well-constructed cap will allow the wearer to tuck the second strap back into the cap, in the cavity from which the first strap emerged. Even with this tucking ability, it is becoming fashionable to leave the second strapped untucked. The size of the cap is adjusted by holding the buckle and pulling the longer strap in the required direction, much in the same way that a conventional belt is adjusted to fit a waist size – but in the case of our cap, without the need for a prong in the buckle, or holes in the strap. There is a huge variety in the closure mechanisms for strapback caps, so the term snapback gives a much better idea of what the closure mechanism will look when compared with the term strapback.
Though definitely not a rule, a snapback cap is more likely to feature a flat visor than a strapback, even though curved visors are now more common for caps with both types of closure. The archetypal snapback design would be a “ball cap”, whereas for a strapback, it would be the “dad hat”. To see a comparison of these two styles, take a look at our explainer of The Difference Between Snapback Caps and Dad Hats. As mentioned before, snapbacks may prove to be a little limiting from a design angle as it is harder to ensure a perfect colour match between the closure and the crown (unless simple colours like black or white are required). Consequently, headwear designers will often choose to create caps as strapbacks simply to remove this colour scheme headache. A result is that the general colour schemes of snapbacks tend to come from a more limited range (the most popular colours being black, grey and navy blue), however the bolder designs that tend to be used as artwork for these caps somewhat compensate for this.
Strapback caps are in more demand than snapback caps, and there is a key reason for this: Plastic – the material that the snapback closure is made of – is not a premium material. The plastic closure can be considered unsightly compared to a strap, and a snapback cap is less comfortable to wear when worn backwards. This is because the wearer’s forehead is now in contact with the plastic closure, rather than the sweatband. Given that most straps on strapbacks are made of cotton fibre, the strap closure is much more comfortable for the wearer when the cap is turned backwards. Consequently, all else equal, a cap with a strap closure will sell for a higher price and in greater quantity than a cap with a snap closure. This bears out among our own clients: They sell far more strapbacks than snapbacks, and so order more strapbacks from us. Snapback hats used to be the most popular, but this was more a case of more snapbacks being produced, rather than more of them being desired by consumers. With the variety of cap styles increasing over time, consumers have voted with their wallets, and snapback caps have seen their market share erode due to the explosion in production of strapbacks, driven by soaring demand for dad caps in recent years.
Just remember that we have based our illustrations in this guide on just one type of strapback closure, though it is the most common. To see the full range of strapped closure mechanisms we can make your custom caps with, check this page showcasing options for Custom Baseball Cap Closures.