Caps, History

How Embroidered Caps Help Make the Trans Alaskan Pipeline

1974 was the start of the Cap industry in the United States.

The most significant embroidered cap orders were from 1974 to 1975, sold on the Alaska Pipeline.

Caps in those days were not popular. It was a working man thing.

This brings us to the Trans Alaska Pipeline Project in Alaska. This project was held up for years while the lower 48 was starved for oil.

Government Regulations

Despite after years of fighting with the government and environmentalists. The Trans Alaska Pipeline project was approved by congress and signed by President Nixon. May 1975 was the project’s start date and the cap industry’s birth.

Government Regulations
Prudhoe Bay Alaska Keeping America Independent

71,000 Pipeline Workers

Housing was built before construction started. Furthermore, there were 31 man camps to house the workers, 71,000 total. Each camp had a canteen stocked with personal items and trucker caps. The caps were an afterthought.

Cap Selection Was Sparse In Alaska

Cap selection was limited to a basic snapback Trucker Cap with the Trans Alaska Pipeline Project patch on the front. Logo caps were to become the trademark of the Trans Alaska Pipeline Project.

Can you imagine a customer base earning a fantastic amount of money and having no place to spend it? This was the only souvenir item they could buy and take home. Belt Buckles, tee shirts, and whatever was an afterthought.

Transporting Caps to the Pipeline

Getting caps was now a problem. Somehow the caps had to get to Alaska and into the camps. Furthermore, shipping the caps to Anchorage and trucking the Haul Road to the construction caps was challenging. This made it necessary to find a canteen manager who would take the caps and sell them in their canteen (camp store). The camp contractor would oversee the supply and logistics to prevent cap interruption.

Map of Alaska
The pipeline started in Prudhoe Bay.

Caps, Cash, And Bootleg Booze

Everything was in place; all needed was to fill the camps with workers with boatloads of money and no place to spend it. Bootleg booze was the biggest seller on the pipeline. Despite getting caught meant immediate dismissal. Selling caps was harmless and not a problem.

Patch Beanies became another big hit with the workers.

Map of Alaska
Beanies are popular with the 71,000 workers in Alaska

In conclusion, from start to finish, over 100,000 caps were sold on the pipeline.

Times were good on the Trans Alaska Pipeline.

In conclusion, the Trans Alaska Pipeline project was the seed money for Northwest Custom Apparel.


About Erik Mickelson

Erik Mickelson is the author of Northwest Custom Apparel's blogs. Erik has been with Northwest Custom Apparel since 1996 after graduating from Washington State University and is the founder of the Apparel Graphic Academy. Trained by the custom graphic apparel industry's best, Mark Venit, Erik brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Embroidery Adventure blog. As they say, 'Experience is the best teacher.' We are proud to have Erik as part of our team!

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