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KOTIS SWAGLAB

The Best Mesh Back Trucker Hats

Michelle Allen & Nic Thomassen   |    Oct 4, 2022    |    Table of Contents

We all have hats, lots of ‘em. They can function as sun protection or rise to a coveted fashion accessory…. and who hasn’t used a hat as an essential part of your Zoom call wardrobe. They can also be incredible branding opportunities when done well. Baseball caps are especially popular, ranking #6 in the highest overall searches of the year, according to ASI.

A “cooler” version of the standard baseball cap is the ubiquitous trucker hat, AKA, the mesh back trucker hat. Trucker hats were created in the ‘60s as an affordable giveaway for truck drivers, farmers, and other rural workers – brands like John Deere, Budweiser, and Pepsi placed their logo on the front of trucker hats and handed them out to blue-collar workers. As time passed, other companies took notice of the popularity. Trucker hats are still popular among the blue-collar community, but they’ve also been adopted by many urban and suburban residents thanks to Hollywood’s influence in the early 2000s. Recently, Vogue fashion wrote that this is the summer of the trucker hat and is the “Must have of men’s fashion week street style.”

Clothing brands also began embellishing hats with phrases, graphics, patches and unique decorations.

We spent hours wearing all of the top selling mesh back trucker hats in various conditions and scenarios, testing construction, design, comfort, fit, and breathability. After kayaking, hiking, going to shows/games, and just chillin’ at the (home) office, we’ve picked our favorites to help you with your next hat project. 

Celebrities are frequently sporting mesh back trucker hats. One of our hat testers was at a Machine Gun Kelly concert, and about halfway through the show, he stopped singing and threw on a shirt and trucker hat from his own merch collection. 


Why make hats for your brand? 

3,400+
impressions generated in its lifetime

69%
of consumers own at least
1 piece of promo headwear 

10 months
average length a promo hat is kept

In it for the long haul 
A good hat can be used for years, especially since you really can’t outgrow it (ever heard the joke about earrings that still fit from High School? Hats are similar : ) The longer someone keeps a hat, the more impressions and connection it creates.

Vintage vibes 
Not every swag item looks better with wear. With truckers, we’d argue that the more worn-in and vintage it looks, the better (hence why teens still scour local thrift shops for Bass Pro truckers or other throwback looks).

Messaging machine 
Since a hat is at eye level, it doesn’t get much more in your face in terms of messaging and being seen. That can be used for reflecting your brand or communicating a core value. Say what you will about MAGA hats, but it sure was a noticed piece of branded merch (to the tune of 1M hats).

A killer kit companion 
Hats are light in weight and don’t take up much space (not to mention being a bit squishable), which is great for shipping costs and logistics. They’re also conveniently one size fits all, which is not the case with most apparel-based pieces. This is why we love adding them in kits, and even do so for our own sales, marketing and HR efforts. Most recently we sent a summer pack to employees (or Kotisians as we call ourselves) which included a performance hydro hat. We’re also working on a gift box for prospects after they demo our swag platform, which also has a hat.

What kit are you working on that could benefit from a hat? We’re happy to help brainstorm ideas and options. 


Our pick

Otto Six Panel Low Profile Mesh Back Cap

Otto Six Panel Low Profile Mesh Back Cap

A traditional trucker with a modern fit Comfortable and classic, this cotton blend hat reminds us of the trucker’s timeless style with great breathability and flexibility.

Learn More

These comfortable hats are just what you need to enjoy the great outdoors. With a firm low-profile front and the classic mesh back, these hats fit the “bill” for a great trucker. This hat features a cotton blend with six panels and sits a bit higher on the head. The snapback closure is plastic and the mesh is made of 100% polyester providing great breathability and flexibility. It excelled in almost all the areas we tested, which is why it’s a top pick. 

Minimum Order: 48
Pricing: $11-20
Material: Front: 65% Polyester, 35% Cotton, Back: 100% Polyester
Construction: 6 panels
Decoration: patch, label, embroidery, heat transfer
Colors available:

Otto low profile mesh back trucker hat color options


Also Great

Richardson low profile mesh back trucker hat

Richardson 115: Low Pro Trucker Hat

Lower profile casual trucker
The Richardson trucker is the most retail hat we tested (and the most recognized brand), with a low pro structure and curved bill. It’s also available in two sizes.

Learn More

Richardson, the most recognized brand in the mix, makes a great low profile trucker with a tailored fit that gives it an overall retail feel. The 115 is what you’d expect in a trucker hat with a snapback closure and mesh panels. We appreciated the pre-curved bill which had a nice amount of “bend,” and the fabric is extra soft (47% cotton and 53% polyester). This hat is the only one we tested that’s available in two sizes.

Minimum Order: 36
Pricing: $15-25
Material: 47% cotton and 53% polyester
Construction: 6 panels
Decoration: patch, label, embroidery, heat transfer
Colors available:
Richardson low profile mesh back trucker hat color options.


Foamie pick

Richardson mesh back foam front trucker hat

Richardson 113 Foamie Trucker

Classic trucker with a foamie front
A foam front and a flat bill give this hat a nice retro style.

Learn More

Another Richardson pick, the 113 Foamie Trucker has that good ole foam front you’re used to seeing on vintage truckers. It’s also the only hat we picked with a flat bill, which pairs well with the foam look. We also liked the structured build with five panels (which therefore has a continuous front panel for more decoration options). Its OSFA and fits comfortably on larger heads.

Minimum Order: 36
Pricing: $12-20
Material: 100% polyester nylon and foam
Construction: Structured
Decoration: patch, label, embroidery, heat transfer
Colors available:
Richardson foamy mesh back trucker hat color options.


Eco pick

Unisex Econscious Eco Trucker Organic and recycled Cap

Econscious Eco Trucker Hat

Eco without compromising on quality
Made from recycled polyester and certified organic cotton, comfort isn’t sacrificed for sustainability. We also liked that Econscious is a member of 1% for the Planet.

Learn More

If your org is especially into sustainable swag, this is a great pick that checks both the style and sustainability boxes. The Econscious 6-panel trucker structured cap is made from 30% recycled polyester and 70% certified organic cotton. It’s available in 20 colors including a unique tri-color version that we especially liked. The structured fit of this hat did not take away from the casual look or comfort. In addition to using Earth-friendly fabrics, Econscious is a member of 1% for the Planet – donating 1% of all retail sales to environmental non-profits. If loving the Earth is wrong, we don’t wanna be right.

Minimum Order: 1
Pricing: $15-25
Material: 30% recycled polyester and 70% certified organic cotton
Construction: 6 panels
Decoration: patch, label, embroidery, heat transfer
Colors available:
Econscious Eco Trucker hat color options.

Our pick

Otto Six Panel Low Profile Mesh Back Cap

Trucker with a modern fit Comfortable and classic, this cotton blend hat reminds us of the trucker’s timeless style with great breathability and flexibility.

Minimum Order: 48
Pricing: $11-20
Material: Front: 65% Polyester, 35% Cotton, Back: 100% Polyester
Construction: 6 panels
Decoration: patch, label, embroidery, heat transfer

Learn More

Also great

 

Richardson 115: Low Pro Trucker Hat

Lower profile casual trucker
The Richardson trucker is the most retail hat we tested (and the most recognized brand), with a low pro structure and curved bill. It’s also available in two sizes.

Minimum Order: 36
Pricing: $15-25
Material: 47% cotton and 53% polyester
Construction: 6 panels
Decoration: patch, label, embroidery, heat transfer

Learn More

Foamie pick

Richardson 113 Foamie Trucker

A classic with a foamie frontA foam front and a flat bill give this hat a nice retro style. We also liked the structured build with five panels (a continuous front panel for more decoration options).

Minimum Order: 36
Pricing: $12-20
Material: 100% polyester nylon and foam
Construction: Structured
Decoration: patch, label, embroidery, heat transfer

Learn More

How we tested

For this SwagLab, we tested 8 mesh back trucker hats for several months. Each hat had to meet specific considerations and were reviewed based on style, adjustability, comfort, material, sweatband, color options and decoration capabilities. Hats are of course a personal preference, so we tried to find hats that would be a good fit for a variety of head shapes and sizes. Here are the main categories we considered while testing: 

  • Aesthetics – If we were in a store looking at these hats, which would we be drawn to try on first? Our testers gravitated toward the curved-bill hats. Many original snapback caps featured a flat bill with a squared visor for a more streetwear style. While the flat bill wasn’t our top pick, it might work well for your brand. Mesh back style snapbacks pair well with sports logos, and they give off a retail vibe. This and the inventory availability were taken into consideration. 
  • Construction/Fit – Durability and functionality are important elements when finding a great hat for your needs. One of the hats we tested never fully broke in and was still rigid even after hours of continuous use, and thus, not as comfortable as we would have liked initially. 
  • Adjustability – Finding a good fit for everyone’s head is no easy feat. Some testers have larger heads than others; therefore, adjustability was key. Since we rarely see fitted or flexfit hat orders, we only focused on hats that had some type of adjustability. 
  • Comfort – Just as you’d expect the construction of the hat to be high-quality, you also want the hat to be super comfortable. After all, the more comfortable the hat is, the more likely the user is to keep it and use it. Often caps are worn for hours at a time, so it’s important to see if they cause discomfort or even headaches. Ideally, your hat will fit snug on your head with a little flexibility as you move or work without pressure on the ears or tightness around the head. 
  • Material – Traditional trucker caps featured a foam front, which is less breathable. Many of the mesh back hats you see today have been upgraded to other types of fabric, mostly a blend of cotton and polyester (which all of our picks have). In our testing, we noticed the cotton/poly combo was more comfortable than traditional foam options we’ve worn in the past, which could more easily cause sweat from continuous wear. Newer cloth sweatbands and better breathability also help the sweat factor.
  • Sweatband – Our testers wore the hats outdoors and at the gym to gauge how each sweatband functioned. Since these are a type of baseball cap, we wanted to test them in hot conditions. Our top picks outranked others when it came to utility of the sweatband.
  • Color options –Since one of the main goals of ordering hats is to showcase your brand, we looked at the amount of color options available. Most of the hats we picked had a solid number of colors with the Otto cap going all the way up to 66 colors available. This is considerably more than the average swag item. The only exception here is the foamie pick, with less than 10 colors.

PRO TIP: Picking a colorway that goes with your planned decoration is a great way to make the hat look even more custom than it is. 

Graphic chart with different mesh back trucker hat style options.

Royal Apparel Examples

Delphix Gradient Hoodies

Earthjustice Staff Gifts

Marine Layer Examples

Spokane BLM Veterans Wildland Fire

TuSimple Holiday Gift

Carhartt Examples

Earthjustice Staff Gifts

Earthjustice Staff Gifts


Decoration tips

The decoration can make or break a hat. Think of a large logo’d promo hat you may have received… you probably wouldn’t wear it much, let alone have it in your go-to rotation. Instead consider ways to creatively enhance your hat in a retail way. Below are a list of decoration methods for mesh back trucker hats and specific ideas for each that can be used for your next project. As always, our consultants and designers are standing by to help along the way. 


Embroidery

Hats and embroidery are a quintessential combo. The tighter fabric on hats lends itself to crisp embroidery. A variety of locations, shapes and styles are possible with embroidery, which is why it’s so common. 

DESIGN TIP: Think asymmetrically – A logo (and especially an icon) can often look just as good, if not better if it’s off centered on either the front left or right panel of a hat.

Embroidery on Mesh

It’s possible to embroider straight onto the mesh backing of a trucker hat. However, adding a border using fill stitch will help visually buffer the logo from the mesh, and stabilize it on the mesh. These are the details our in-house design and production teams love to finesse so your hat is the best it can be.

3D Embroidery

If you want to take embroidery up a notch, go 3D with your stitches (otherwise known as puff embroidery). This uses a layer of foam (and an additional level of digitizing and machine operation knowledge) to create luscious, raised letters and graphics that pop off your hat. It’s heavily used in the sports space, but really can be used in any sector that would benefit from the look. One caveat is the graphics that are raised need to be a certain size to have the right effect, so super detailed designs aren’t the best option here.


Patches

Patches are always a great addition to a hat. They come in many forms from faux leather and PVC to screen printed and sublimated. However, most patches are made with embroidery. The stitch detail can actually be a bit tighter than direct embroidery since patches are made on smooth/stable material which leads to less distortion in stitching. 


Labels

Adding a label gives your hat that extra touch to make it feel even more retail. If we had our way, we’d add labels to almost all the hats we design. They work in a variety of locations and sizes, from a loop label on the back opening to a straight cut label on either side of the hat (see our guide on private labeling for more label types). 

Woven labels hold about twice the detail as embroidered patches and can have lots of colors, so they’re especially good for branding plays (think about how your fav brand uses labels). As you know from previous posts, we recommend keeping your logo on the subtle side for better wearability and longevity; labels are a wonderful way to do so, while still getting noticed.

Guide to where labels can be stitched on a trucker hat.

PRO TIP: Make extra labels, store them in our warehouse. Many of our clients create a label or patch that will work across several items. We then store it for them at one of our production facilities to have ready for future orders. It’s a great way to up the retail vibe of your merch line while also gaining some cost savings by being able to order a larger quantity. 


Heat Transfer

If you’re looking for a full color design, heat transfers can come in handy. They’re mainly applied to the front panel of the hat since they need to fit into a clamp that works with the heat press. 


Screen Printing

A printed hat can have a certain aesthetic that goes especially well with foam front truckers. Just like with heat transfers, screen printed hats are loaded onto a certain pallet/clamp, and therefore are mainly printed on the front panel.


Mixed Media

PVC on the side, embroidery on the front

Don’t forget, the above decoration options can be mix and matched for even more unique deco. Add a patch to the front with a subtle printed pattern behind it, embroider the side, and sew a label above the back opening. The hat is your oyster. 


OVERSEAS SOURCING
Get even crazier with your hat

Looking to customize your cap even more? And not just mesh back trucker hats? Our overseas sourcing team can help create a hat from the ground up, which means you can really make anything you want.  Is there a particular retail hat you especially love? We can riff off that to mockup similar details but with a bent towards your brand. Send us your inspo or let our designers go wild. Once you have the look you want, our fashion designer creates a tech pack and one of our partner factories will sew up a pre-pro sample just for you. This process takes a bit longer of course, but is quite worth it.

Specs / Timeline
144 piece minimum
• 10 day sample time
30 day production (+ transit time)


Why trust Kotis

We’ve been decorating and shipping many styles of hats for over a decade. Our goal has always been to create the best swag for our clients, and we’re happy to work with you in that endeavor. Our product testers researched and reviewed a selection of hats for 3 months and gathered feedback from other hat enthusiasts within Kotis.

We’ve distributed hundreds of thousands of hats and utilized the feedback from our clients, combined with our testing to create these recommendations. These are not endorsed by any supplier; we simply want to help make your life easier when choosing merch. Let’s do swag together.