Words: John Clary Davies
Largely popularized by Justin Timerblake, Ashton Kutcher, and Hank Hill, the trucker hat became fashionable in the early 2000s for American suburban youth who donned the dome piece in an ironic gesture toward the hat’s more rural past. Like a trusted flannel or your warmest Sorel’s, the trucker hat is now about as essential to a skier’s uniform as a road-soda stashed in your mid-puffy.
That’s one reason Tahoe-based BigTruck hats has grown so quickly. Two years ago, Galen Gifford and Kelsen Thompson quit their day jobs to pursue The Dream. For them, that was stitching hats for their friends in an eight-by-ten shack near the shore of Lake Tahoe. The business took off. Squaw Valley, Volkl, and GoPro have all commissioned the group to sew customized hats. For the 2012 Pain McShlonkey, BigTruck made 200 hats out of a Shane McConkey wing suit. Now they have a warehouse next to the High Fives Foundation, sell hats internationally, and have a team of 10 employees. They even spotted heartthrob Zac Efron sporting their cap in recent paparazzi footage.
“It wasn’t a leap of faith,” says Gifford about quitting his job to make hats. “When you know you’re doing the right thing, when you’re making the right move, the inner confidence that you have sets inhibition and fears aside.”
BigTruck hats come three ways. Customers can come into the store and design their hat; choose one of their designs, which includes those of ambassador Julia Mancuso; or they can attend an event where BigTrucks has a tent, design their own hat and watch them be sewn on site. In the future, customers will be able to get online and customize their hats, too.
The BigTruck logo came from a one-line stitch Thompson’s dad used for his garbage collection company in Tahoe City in 1975. Ultimately, the younger Thompson took the logo and started making custom hats out of unique materials. All the hats are made out of American products. Gifford and Thompson used to dumpster dive near local interior designer stores for construction materials. Now the two receive donations of recyclable textiles. In the future BigTruck plans to sell backpacks, too.
“I think the sky’s the limit,” says Gifford. “As long as people keep appreciating the art, the creativity, and variety and we keep doing new and cool stuff, for us, it’s to the moon.”