Choosing the Best Hats for Embroidery: 6 Expert Tips

Choosing the Best Hats for Embroidery: 6 Expert Tips

From crowns to cowboy hats, people notice headwear. After all, humans -- being social creatures -- naturally gravitate towards looking at each other's faces and hats are right there. And that's why custom hats are such an incredible promotional and marketing tool.


 Why embroider a hat? (a.k.a. "Can't you print a design on a hat?")   

When it comes to customization, there are generally two main options: print or embroidery. And while there are some garments where either method works just as well as the other, other times the clothing itself determines the method.

For example, the ideal "canvas" for screen printing is a smooth, flat surface. That's why t-shirts work so well. Hats, on the other hand, are anything but flat. As a result, the quality of a screen print on a hat tends to be low.

Embroidery doesn't have this limitation, meaning you can embroider a hat without any issues.

(Note: Because Bolt Printing is dedicated to providing our customers with the kind of high-quality apparel we're proud to show off on our social media, we don't print on hats.)


 The benefits of a custom-embroidered hat   

Although each kind of custom apparel has its own set of benefits, custom-embroidered hats have a few advantages that set them way apart.

  • Easily seen, even in a crowd
  • Valued as a premium item
  • Fits most people's bodies
  • Can be worn everyday and pretty much year-round
  • All-around great promotional items


A company's custom logo on a trucker hat. These are great hats for embroidery and started off being used for logo embroidery

 "Are there any drawbacks or limitations with custom embroidered caps?"   

Although hats are an incredible promotional product, they have one small limitation... or, I should say, the limitation is that the design area on hats is small.

While custom tees give you a huge space to work with, a hat's embellishment area is only around 4" by 2". That means you really need to prioritize your design elements -- such as sticking to a company logo or brand logo -- or going with a simple message.

Avoiding tiny details is also a must, because they'll be hard to see when somebody is standing still and even harder when the hat's wearer is walking.

However, when you consider how many logo hats are popular enough to be sold at retail (where people pay to walk around with a team or business logo on their head), custom logo hats can be a very solid choice.


 Uses for custom hats   

Some of the most common uses for custom hats include:

 -Sports team caps

Whether it's baseball caps for a high school team or something for a minor league team, sports apparel is huge. Local teams of all sizes (and just about every sport) have fans who want something with the team's logo on it -- and, not only are they often willing to pay for it (either covering costs or making a profit), but it's a tremendous form of free advertising.

Group of players wearing hats featuring an embroidered logo

However, even if you're just giving away hats at games, it's a great way to get attention for a team people care about. And, of course, the players want something associated with the team's brand, too.

By the way, if you want to make your baseball caps really official, you could go with New Era ones. New Era is the official hat maker for all of the Major League Baseball (MLB) teams.

(See our full selection of New Era and other caps.)

Nike cap with a pre-curved visor

Need hats for a different sport? You could always get custom-embroidered Nike caps. Once again, you'll have the same brand of apparel as a pro team -- which is a fun feeling whether it's for a company team, a school, or anything else.

The custom Nike hat seen above (NKAO9293) is available in 7 colors, so you're sure to find something that works well with your team's logo.

-Employee uniforms  

Having employees wear hats with your company logo makes them easier to identify. (Not to mention there's something really neat about seeing a company logo embroidered on a hat!)

This is an especially popular option for landscapers and other companies whose employees mostly work outdoors, since the business is usually built by either word of mouth or being seen.

-Promotional hats for giveaways and other events  

Just like with custom tees, embroidered hats are great for giveaways. They're popular with radio stations and other entertainment companies.

Of course, if you own a restaurant, resort, or other customer-beloved business, you may be able to sell your hats to customers instead of just giving them away. Even if you aren't making a profit, you'll offset your costs.


 What goes into deciding whether a hat works well for custom embroidery   

Many custom apparel companies will be happy to sell you a hat, although not all of them to care about the quality -- meaning when a design doesn't work, you're stuck holding the bag (more specifically, the garbage bag where those terrible-looking hats will be going).

Here at Bolt Printing, we take a different approach. All of the hats seen on our site have been rigorously tested to ensure they run well in production. If we can't customize a hat to our satisfaction, we won't use it -- even if it's a top-seller for somebody else!

So when it comes to finding the best custom hats, rest assured that everything you buy from Bolt Printing works great for custom embroidery. The only limitation will be your custom design, which -- with the help of our embroidery experts -- should look amazing.


 6 Tips for choosing the perfect custom hat   

What does the best hat look like? That depends on who you ask.

Different people have very different expectations and preferences when it comes to hats. In fact, if somebody is a hat person, they might not deviate from their favorite style. While this can make finding a hat that pleases everybody almost impossible, that shouldn't be your focus anyway. Instead, you want to appeal to as many people as possible, which comes down to understanding your audience.

Here are a few of the features you'll want to consider.

#1 - Hat size  

Custom embroidered caps are available in a few different sizes. While you can go with a one-size-fits-all, which will cover many adults' head sizes, you could also choose specific sizes.

Little girl wearing a big hat

This choice can come down to how the hats will be distributed. If it's a giveaway, you want to go broad. If the hats are instead for employees or a team, you can just ask for their preferred size.

#2 - Hat bill type  

A hat's bill -- the visor at the front -- usually gravitates towards one of two styles, either a flat bill or a curved one.

+Custom flat bill hats  

Flat-bill Yupoong 6007. Uses 100% cotton twill

A flat bill is exactly how it sounds -- a hat bill that's flat. This can give a custom hat a look that's almost as rigid as the bill. While a flat bill tends to look more fashionable, some people may find it a less comfortable fit (because there isn't as much of a curve where the hat fits against your forehead). However, it's a very clean-looking design. If you wanted to start a fashion brand -- or are in entertainment -- this is probably the direction you'd want to go.

Featured above is Yupoong's 6007. Available in 6 colors, the 6007 has an exceptionally 'clean' front -- you'll notice that the seam stops at the end of the crown and there are no eyelets on the front panel.

+Custom curved bill hats  



The amount of curve on a curved bill can vary, which greatly affects the hat's look. Some people love a steeper curve while others think it looks awful.

In terms of fit, the curved bill tends to give you more of a contour on the front so the hat wraps around your forehead.

A curved bill tends to be a more casual look and seems to be preferred for sports (and other rigorous outdoor activities).

+Custom PermaCurv hats  

What if you didn't want to choose between a flat or curved bill? Flexfit can offer you both.

Flexfit makes a lot of great trucker caps, including the 6511

Some of Flexfit's hats feature what's called a PermaCurv Visor. Basically, it's a bill that can be straightened or curved without creasing or becoming misshapen.

The PermaCurv is available on several of Flexfit's hats, including the 6511W (seen above; available in 6 colors) and the 6277 woolly combed cap (a fan favorite available in 14 colors that features the company's Flexfit technology).

#3 - Structured vs unstructured caps  

The front panels of a hat can be either rigid (i.e., hard) or soft.

Example of a buckram, which is created by soaking cotton twill in glue or another sizing agent

In the case of a structured cap, there's a rigid piece of material behind the panels called a buckram, which is what allows the front of the hat to keep its shape whether or not it's being worn. Buckram itself is a stiff cotton, created when the fabric is soaked in a sizing agent (like glue) and then dried.

Meanwhile, an unstructured cap (also known as a dad hat) lacks a buckram, meaning it doesn't keep a consistent shape.

+A structured cap is more stylish  

Many of the hats you'll see in this article -- and on people's heads -- are structured caps.

Because structured caps keep their shape, they tend to be more fashionable. You're more likely to see structured caps at retail, used as team hats, and so on.

+An unstructured cap may be more comfortable  

Unstructured caps (aka dad hats) like the one seen above tend to be more casual

You'll probably recognize an unstructured cap at a glance. Where a buckram helps a structured hat keep its form, an unstructured one tends to sink in on itself because nothing is there to support it. And, when somebody wears a structured hat, the front panels stay the same (thanks to that buckram) while an unstructured hat adapts to fit its wearer's head.

One of the more interesting benefits of unstructured caps is that they're easier to fold up and carry. You can scrunch up an unstructured cap to toss it in a bag (or pocket, if you have bigger pockets). That's less of an option with a structured cap because the buckram is too thick.

Is one more comfortable than the other? It depends on the wearer, since it's largely a matter of preference. An unstructured cap adjusts more readily to your head size, but you're going to feel more of the material on your forehead. Meanwhile, a structured cap has less flexibility, but it doesn't sit flush against your head.

+Do these hat design differences matter?  

It really comes down to usage. Given that structured caps tend to be the standard for teams, most work uniforms, and so on, custom hats not using a buckram (or other rigid backing) might look odd in those contexts.

Unstructured caps fall more along the lines of casual clothing. When they're used as part of a work uniform, it'll likely be more for landscapers and trade workers.

However, as a general rule, you'll probably want to stick with a structured cap.

#4 - Hat crown height  

The top of the hat is called the crown and is available in three different profiles: high, mid, or low.

As you've probably already guessed, mid is the most popular profile choice.

#5 - The hat's back (not to be confused with I Want My Hat Back, the popular children's book)  

Hat backs tend to come in two different varieties.

+A solid (or paneled) hat back  

Traditional caps, just like other hats, tend to feature the same material around all sides. In the case of paneled cap, this means having six hat panels (with six seams).

A hat with not one panel, not two, three, four, or even five panels, but SIX panels

This gives the hat a much more consistent look, which many people like. However, it's not the only option and there are benefits to the other styles, too.

+A mesh backing  

The most prominent alternative is a mesh (or vented) back. Sometimes called a trucker hat (because the caps were originally given to truckers as a promotional item), a hat with a mesh backing offers breathability and a more flexible surface.Hat with a mesh backing

Mesh backings can come in all sorts of varieties and styles. Some can be very open, others are a bit thicker, and the material can be different (such as fabric).

#6 - The hat closure  

Everybody likes having a bit of closure and that's no different with hats (since otherwise a hat would fit very, very loosely).

The closure is the often-adjustable piece at the back of a hat that helps to keep the hat on your head. While some hats feature a built-in, non-adjustable closure, the adjustable versions tend to be a lot more common (especially since many are sold as one-size-fits-all).

+Custom snapback hat  

A snapback closure features interlocking pegs and peg holes. The result is a secure, durable adjustable closure. Once you've found your perfect fit, you don't have to worry about losing it.

Snapbacks are a common feature on custom trucker hats

Another advantage is you roughly know how to adjust a new hat to suit your preference. The only real downside is it's not as adjustable as some other options because a snapback closure consists of fixed points.

+Custom hook and loop closure hat  

A hook-and-loop closure uses hook-and-loop fasteners (also known as velcro) to secure the back of the cap. (This system involves two lineal strips -- one with tiny "hooks" while the other has tiny "loops" -- where the hook strip latches onto the loop strip. Its creator, George de Mestral, happened upon the idea after he observed how burrs stuck to his clothes.)Hook & loop

Although this method gives you more flexibility than a snapback, it won't always maintain its hold nearly as well as a snapback and the material can lose sensitivity over time.

 The most popular caps   

If you're overwhelmed by the number of choices and amount of information so far -- and just want to buy custom hats with your logo on them -- I'll make this simple: you should go with either a Richardson 112 or a Port Authority CP80 (unless you want a dad hat, at which point you should consider the BDDH, which is available in 18 colors).

Richardson 112

The Richardson 112 (seen above) is easily among the most popular choices for custom hats. It looks good and fits comfortably. (You'll find a number of variants among the selections on our hats page.)

Port Authority CP80

Another top-selling hat is Port Authority's CP80 (available in 24 colors). It's an affordable, fantastic-looking cap.

 Whether you're looking for the best caps, beanies, or other headwear, Bolt Printing has you -- and your head -- covered

Our online studio can bring your embroidery design to life, whether it's on a trucker cap or armour hats

Bolt Printing makes ordering custom embroidered hats and other apparel easy. Simply upload your artwork into our online design studio and you're just about ready to go. Don't have your own artwork? Be sure to check out our extensive collection of clip art and fonts.One head, four hats

At Bolt, we're used to wearing multiple hats -- all of our team members are experts in a few areas. When you call our front office, you're often talking to the same person who will help to make sure your design looks amazing on the apparel you're ordering. It's also why you don't have to worry about your design being perfect -- we're able to fix things up.