Why is everyone wearing the same beanie on my Instagram feed?
Over the past several months, I have watched this $16.99, no-frills hat from the workwear brand Carhartt, known best for providing coveralls and jackets for farmers and other laborers, become the It accessory, adorning the heads of influencers, normal people, and babies alike.
I first noticed the beanie, which I will call the Hat, on influencers as temperatures began to drop across the US. Once I noticed it, I saw it everywhere. Influencers like Hollie Woodward (1 million followers) wear the Hat, and so do her three daughters, all in matching pink.
Several babies wear the Hat for their monthly Instagram posts, the beanie becoming tighter as they grow. Moms-to-be position the Hat above a onesie or pair of overalls to announce their pregnancies. Even the store Buy Buy Baby recently featured a baby wearing the Hat on its feed.
Soon, the Hat started appearing on the heads of babies I actually knew on my personal Instagram, matching with their moms. In the real world, I started spotting it on the heads of people I saw on the street when out running errands. As the weeks went by, I saw it more and more. Literally everyone, everywhere I went, was wearing the Hat. Finally, I did a test. I randomly checked the Instagram pages for four or five major influencers to see if they had posted the Hat in the past few weeks. All of them had.
To see if my observations were more than just conjecture, I contacted the authority on influencer style: LikeToKnow.It. A spokesperson for the influencer affiliate-linking platform, which is owned by RewardStyle, confirmed my suspicions. She told me that in the first week of January, sales for the brand nearly doubled from that of December 2020. Again, this was in just one week of January.
She had even more wild stats for me. In that same time period, the number of influencers linking to Carhartt had increased by over 200%, and week over week, consumer searches for “Carhartt beanie” were up 45%. According to RewardStyle, this trend began in early October, when the platform began to see a “steady rise in popularity for Carhartt.”
The spokesperson didn’t have a definitive answer as to what is driving this trend, so I decided to go straight to the source: influencers themselves. One microinfluencer I spoke to, Sara Wells of @blondehanes, told me a pretty simple answer. She bought the beanies for herself and her kids because she was...influenced!
“Every mom blogger was wearing them,” Wells said when I asked why she had decided to buy the beanies. “I don’t even think it was any sort of collab, I just kept seeing larger mama influencers wearing them, and then it trickled down.”
Specifically, Wells said she had noticed them on mom influencer Britt Havens, who had been posting wearing the Hat last spring.
The popularity of the Hat has also been a boon for small businesses that do a lot of their selling on Instagram, like Just Sisters Boutique. A spokesperson for the shop, run by sisters Jeni and Lilli Tourloukis, said when they introduced the Hat, they sold out "within minutes.”
Wells said she has been very pleased with her purchase.
“The quality is fantastic. Makes sense because it was originally made for construction guys,” she said.
Indeed, Carhartt never set out to become a brand for influencers or cool moms. It was founded in 1889 as a workwear brand, and still is one today, outfitting primarily ranch hands, farmworkers, and other outdoor laborers in its signature heavy coveralls and bibs. However, over the past several decades, the brand has become “cool,” first becoming beloved by hip-hop artists and skateboarders in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1989, the spinoff brand Carhartt Work in Progress was launched to appeal to this more artsy, less handy clientele.
But the Hat is an OG Carhartt product, “originally designed as a workwear essential,” according to its website. Its huge popularity over the past year has also been a surprise to the brand itself, Tony Ambroza, the chief brand officer for Carhartt, told BuzzFeed News. But he thinks momentum has been building for a while. According to Ambroza, customers have been flocking to heritage brands with well-made staples, and they have seen their brand awareness grow exponentially over the past decade.
However, the explosion of the Hat over the past year, Ambroza said, is totally organic. He’s been thrilled, obviously, to learn from his own teenage kids how popular the Hat has become on TikTok and Instagram.
“I would love to take credit for the fact that we seeded the product to all of those influencers … but I would be lying,” he said.
In fact, the popularity has been so enormous that Ambroza said he’s been wondering if the company will soon be “hitting peak beanie,” meaning people will see the Hat, which is called the A18 by the company, so often that they get sick of it. Ambroza said the company shipped 5 million Hats in 2020 and sold as many in the first two weeks of January as they did in all of spring 2020 on its website. Ironically, the Hat, which originated in 1987, used to be a gift with purchase, meaning the company didn’t even actually sell them.
Now, he said, “it’s easily one of our top-selling styles.”
Ambroza has a few theories as to why the Hat has become so popular. He said customers have always loved the Hat’s simplicity, look, array of colors, and fit. He said he thinks the $16.99 price point helps too. The Just Sisters boutique spokesperson agreed, saying they think their customers “really like how they’re affordable.”
Another one of Ambroza’s theories, though, really makes sense to me. It all (of course) comes back to the pandemic. People are becoming more influenced by the fashion they see online, because they are browsing on a screen rather than out and about. And the Hat is kind of the perfect WFH fashion item. When you’re doing meetings all day on Zoom, you may not want to do your hair but still look chic. Voilà, the Hat.
“If they can put on a beanie and feel comfortable with the way they look, too, that’s great,” Ambroza said.
This makes a lot of sense. Like the tie-dye sweatsuit before it, the Hat is the perfect way to have fun with fashion and stay on trend, even though most of us are sitting around doing nothing. It’s cheap and low-maintenance, and doesn’t feel ridiculous to wear while lying on your couch. And if you wear one for a Zoom meeting, win-win.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pick out my color.