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Hats On Cap stores are making headway in the $208 million sports hat industry.

By David Doran

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Next time you're at an amusement park, sporting event,parade or other outdoor event, take a look around and notice howmany people are wearing baseball hats. If it looks to you likeevery man, woman and child as far as the eye can see is sportingsuch a cap, you're not far from the truth. According to theNational Sporting Goods Association, in 1997, Americans spent $208million on caps and hats emblazoned with sport logos, a16 percentincrease over 1995 figures. And this number doesn't eveninclude the untold millions spent on fashion and designer caps fromnonsports-related clothing brands, such as Stussy, No Fear andGuess?; novelty caps such as those promoting a hobby like fishing;or machine-embroidered caps custom-made for company outings orbirthdays.

While baseball-style caps have been around as long as the gameitself, it's only been within the last decade or so that sportsteams have really begun to market their brands via headwear.According to David Stewart, chairman of the marketing department atthe University of Southern California's Marshall School ofBusiness in Los Angeles, the quality and variety of sports-brandedcaps not only provides people with an opportunity to express theirloyalty to a team but appeals to their sense of taste as well."Teams have gotten much more savvy with respect to design andfashion," says Stewart. "The days of having just whitecaps with a logo are gone. Now you have caps that are much morecolorful and that make more of a statement."

Unlike many fashion trends, the popularity of caps seems to spanall age groups and income brackets. "You have the olderconsumers who are identifying with the team, and you have theyounger consumers who are just wearing it as a fashion statement;that it's associated with a certain team may be secondary orirrelevant," says Stewart.

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