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Everything to know about the history of the trucker hat

A look at the evolution of truck driver headwear

Trucker hats sprang up in the 1960s as promotional giveaways from large companies. Customizable trucker hats are for sale at the Petro 44 truck stop in Joplin, Missouri. (Photo Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

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Trucker hats have been part of American culture since they sprang up in the 1960s as promotional giveaways by companies like John Deere.

Also known as a “gimme cap” or “feed cap,” the style became popular with everyone from truckers to farmers and other rural workers who got them for free emblazoned with logos from haulage and U.S. feed and farming supply companies, according to a blog post from the Acme Hat Co.

Made up of a broad front and adjustable plastic mesh at the back, trucker hats were less expensive to manufacture than baseball caps and fit almost anyone. 

Trucker hats borrowed from earlier brimmed hats such as jockey caps, military “pillbox” caps and fedoras. From the 1930s through the 1950s, truckers often wore a type of peaked cap known as a mechanic’s cap, according to Vogue Magazine article about the history of ball caps.

Some say the rise of televised sports and TV shows in the 1960s and 1970s contributed to the acceptability of baseball hats and trucker hats for everyday wear. Many point to actor Tom Selleck regularly sporting a Detroit Tigers baseball cap in the “Magnum, P.I.” TV series in the 1980s as a watershed event for men’s headwear, according to Spiff Magazine.

In more recent years, trucker hats got a boost from Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher, known for “That ’70s Show” and MTV’s “Punk’d,” who  wore trucker hats on almost every episode of each show, according to a 2003 article from the New York Times. 

The Von Dutch apparel company also made trucker hats hot in the early 2000s. Its trucker hats, which cost anywhere from $40 to $125, became famous covering the heads of celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Jay-Z and Britney Spears, The Daily Beast. reported.

Today, trucker hats are almost exclusively for working-class truckers and farmers though they are worn by everyone from hipsters to fashionistas. While expensive versions may signal status, the affordability of the trucker hat, as well as its usefulness in fighting bad hair days, has helped it remain a popular item of attire in American society.

FreightWaves Classics articles look at various aspects of the transportation industry’s history. If there are topics that you think would be of interest, please send them to [email protected].

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Noi Mahoney.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]