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What Is a Dad Hat?

Dad fashion is back in a big way. From oversized crew neck sweaters to chunky, non-aesthetic sneakers to dad hats – sometimes it’s ironic, and sometimes it’s sincere, but these days, everyone wants to look like a dad. Why, though, and what even is a dad hat?

Dad hats are central to this resurgent style, and if you want to put together a convincing, dad-inspired look, the right hat is essential. Learn about the origins of the dad hat, how you can style yours, and get the answer to the question that’s probably been on your lips from the beginning: how is it even different from a baseball cap?

The Origin of the Dad Hat

The history of hats goes back centuries and spans the globe. The Metropolitan Museum of Art put on an exhibition of hats from the Andes region that likely go back to 500-900 C.E. Dad hats aren’t quite as old, but the history is just as rich.

So, what are they? In essence, these are baseball caps, but the design and function vary slightly from the kind you’ll see worn by players. This variation on the baseball cap is less structured, featuring an unstructured front panel and a wider, looser bill. Six-panel caps became popular off the field in the 1970s, and as bulkier, more structured designs became a signature hip-hop style staple, the relaxed hat was left for the dads.

The logic behind the dad hat is that it still performs the same function as the baseball cap – keeps sun and hair out of your eyes, mainly – but is looser, more relaxed, and thus in fitting with the dad ethos of comfort over style. Yet this variation on the baseball cap has since become a style of its own.

How Did Dad Hats Become a Trend?

Nostalgia and trends run in cycles. You’ll remember that over the past ten years, we experienced a wave of ‘80s nostalgia across culture, from TV (Stranger Things) and movies (Drive) to the arts (graphic design has taken a very ’80s turn) and fashion – with the dad hat being the perfect example.

Experts disagree on whether the nostalgia cycle turns over every 30 years or whether it’s every 15 or 40 years. The principle behind why nostalgia returns in cycles remains the same, however, and it’s simple to explain. Once one generation gets old enough to take control of the culture industry, they begin publicly reflecting on their own childhoods. So when the generation that grew up in the ‘80s become writers, artists, and filmmakers, we all relive their ’80s nostalgia.

This is the most convincing explanation for the rise of the dad hat, as the current generation dominating fashion and style grew up with the fathers who first pioneered the dad hat.

Style: How, Where, and When To Show Off Your Dad Hat

Most hats made in this style have six panels, with that all-important front panel lacking a rigid structure. Dad hats come in a wide variety of designs and styles, from six and five-paneled designs, pinch tuck or no pinch tuck bill, and varying in material from cotton to poly twill to corduroy.

What’s in the name? We call them “dad hats” because the generation that made them popular, millennials, all have memories of their dads wearing hats like this. Everyone can wear dad hats now, but you should still take a page from the brave generation of dads who first pioneered them. The best way to style these hats is with casual, loose-fitting clothes like cotton tees, corduroy shorts, and sandals.

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Dad Hats vs Baseball Caps: What’s the Difference?

Now for the question that comes to mind, the minute most people hear the term “dad hat” – how is this “trend” at all different from generic baseball caps? The answer comes down to both construction and styling.

Dad hats and baseball caps aren’t different types of hats, but variations of the same type. Baseball caps have five or six rigid panels with a structured front panel and a stiff, curved bill. Dad hats are six-paneled caps with unstructured front panels and a relaxed bill. No one material defines the dad cap, but you’ll see a lot of them made from stretchy fabric like corduroy. A baseball cap made for the sport will never be made from corduroy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do They Call It a Dad Hat?

This type of cap got this name because the generation who coined the term grew up seeing their fathers wear them. This unfussy hat, perfect for relaxation and casual work, was popularized in the 1970s and 1980s when millennials’ dads were young. Now, millennials look back on faded pictures with nostalgia and find the style choices exciting – in a vintage way.

What Is a Dad Hat vs. Baseball Cap?

When it comes to dad hats vs. baseball caps, the difference comes down to styling and construction. The former are relaxed and unstructured, and the latter are rigid and structured. The styling follows the form: dad hats provide a casual alternative to the more athletic, functional baseball cap.

What Is the Dad Hat Style?

Because dad hats are designed to be lowkey and comfortable, styling is versatile. You can pair your dad hat with a pair of rubber boots and overalls for a day fishing at the lake. You can just as easily pair it with a denim jacket and a slim pair of chinos for a night out at a concert. The dad hat goes with everything.

Final Thoughts

Curious whether dad hats would fit with your wardrobe? Browse the endless customization options available at The/Studio and design the ultimate custom dad hat today!

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