I’m a hat person out of necessity. Thanks to several years of high-alpine living and more than my fair share of sunburns, I’ve tried embracing trendy wool wide-brim hats and summer sun hats made of straw. However, nothing really fits the, ahem, bill for me like a trucker hat.
Now a staple for bad-hair days and a symbol of a life lived outdoors, trucker hats get their name from the fact that they were originally given away as freebies to truck drivers, farmers, and other rural workers in the 1960s as promos from farming-supply companies. But over time, their popularity has grown to the point where nearly every outdoor brand has at least one in its lineup. With so many options on the market, I picked these favorites by focusing on a few key things—company ethics, overall quality and durability, and style. Here are the ones that rose to the top.
“My Meridian Line hats are designed from the inside out—every stitch and piping and internal art considered,” says Jeremy Collins, an illustrator whose imagery has saturated nearly every niche of the outdoor industry. He’s worked with everyone from Keen to Protect Our Winters on highly recognizable marketing campaigns. In 2014, he cofounded his own brand, Meridian Line.
“Truckers have become an unignorable commodity for most brands, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable just slapping some art on a stock hat and calling it a day,” Collins says. Known for his highly detailed line drawings of nature and wildlife, he applies the same meticulous approach to quality to the brand, and hats are arguably the best canvas for artwork in his line of soft goods.
All of the Meridian Line hats showcase his art, but my favorite is the Linescreen trucker hat ($25), because the faint linework on each one intentionally stands out more and more as the hat fades with time, meaning the more wear and tear you put it through, the more interesting and unique each design gets.
There are a lot of brands out there combining social or environmental responsibility with product, but NativesOutdoors founder Len Necefer uses his brand to create space for indigenous artists and outdoor athletes. His goal? To empower through representation. “We’re looking to cultivate artists who are natives and who are doing cool things with design,” says Necefer, “but our imagery isn’t necessarily recreating what you’d see on a Navajo rug or a Gwich’in beaded piece. It’s using that as the influence or base.”
NativesOutdoors hats feature geometric patterns and bright colors and are an indigenous response to the plethora of culturally appropriated imagery currently saturating the outdoor market. I especially love the five-panel Mountain Ridges Technical Trucker hat ($24). It stands out in a crowd thanks to the plays on modern colors and graphic elements that still honor a traditional indigenous aesthetic. The company works with BoCo Gear to create the hats, which Necefer chose for their durability. BoCo uses a woven—rather than foam—front panel, which reinforces the sturdy feel of the hat.
With its bold graphics and trademark off-center logo, there’s a lot to love about Bigtruck. The company specializes in trucker hats, which allows it to really hone in on not just the technical features but also pack tons of personality into each design. “Bigtruck got its start making a simple yet symbolic beacon of California mountain life: the trucker hat,” says Bill Sinoff, the company’s general manager.
From the scenic prints on the Original Sublimated line to the eye-catching and easily recognizable Original Goggle designs (both $35), each Bigtruck hat speaks to an outdoor lifestyle. The company is also a B Corp, which means you can feel good about the environmental and social impact of each hat it makes.
Artist Ann Piersall’s bold line drawings of the eastern Sierra are unmistakable but only available in a handful of area shops (that luckily have online stores), including Sage to Summit. The natural and often neutral palette of her artwork on the front of each hat is offset by bold, jewel-toned flat bills and mesh backs. The combo looks great on folks who like walking around with fine art on their foreheads (and covering up their dirty hair).
Piersall, who sells her original paintings as well as prints in addition to the hats, says, “I started printing my art on hats with the intention of making the art accessible and available to people, like most of my dirtbag friends, who wouldn’t traditionally purchase art.”
Piersall’s brand is under the radar, but that’s one of the reasons I love it. It’s tough to pick a favorite design, but if I had to, it’d be the Mammoth Skyline trucker hat ($28).