The Drop of a (MAP) Hat

By: Kyle Wagner

Souvenirs get a bad rap for a reason – most of the time, they’re cheap and cheesy, and once the initial novelty wears off, they’re often relegated to a dusty shelf or the back of a drawer.

But Nick Silverstein saw an opportunity to create a lasting souvenir that could not only be useful, but also memorable and meaningful. “I had just been on the slopes in Aspen, and after an epic day, I stopped into this store that made hats,” the longtime snowboarder and former model says. “We’d been on a run called Adios [aka AMF], and it was just an amazing double-black diamond, and I’d really had a blast on it. The shop had a red hat with just the name of the run and two black diamonds – so simple, but really eye-catching, you know?”

Nick says he loved how the word on the baseball cap had a double meaning – “The whole idea of the Spanish ‘see ya’ on this hard run, I knew people would ask me about it when I wore the hat” – and also that it was such a great way of preserving the memory of his legendary experience. “Plus, I collect baseball caps,” he explains, “and each one has a meaning and a connection to something.”

Nick Silverstein saw a need for outdoors-oriented souvenir-style hats depicting trails and other topo features.

When Nick got back to Miami, where he lives with his wife and their two-year-old daughter, he couldn’t get the hat out of – or off of – his head. “I started thinking about how cool it could be to take this to another level, to create hats that would have trail maps on them or other identifying parts of an outdoor experience that would resonate with people,” he says. “And I knew I wanted the first ones to be made for people I already knew and had a strong connection to, so that I could really organically start offering something that they could relate to.”

And thus MAP Hatter, Nick’s new custom hat company, was born. But these aren’t just any ordinary baseball caps: Each head topper sports a topographic map specific to each client, which creates an immediate keepsake that’s also a durable and functional piece of clothing.

The maps themselves are created through the textile sublimation process, which penetrates the fibers so they’re permanently fixed. Each snapback-style hat is made from 100% nylon, which makes it water-resistant and easy to clean, and features custom-stitched rope embellishments, with hand-woven patches, labels and sweatband. In addition, the baseball caps travel well – they’re collapsible and also machine-washable (on low, and then hang-dry).

Nick had started out by making baseball caps for three longtime events he’d been part of over the years, including a family camping trip that had been going on for more than four decades. “I made 200 hats for that family gathering, just thought I’d give it a shot,” he says. “And they turned out great, so then I made some for an event in Tennessee, for Larkspur Conservation. And the other one was for a company in Bentonville, Arkansas, called Pedal Steel Solar.”

MAP Hatter’s custom baseball caps are made of 100% nylon, making them water-resistant.

The process was not without its challenges, though – getting the map angled correctly so that the topo features are accurate and legible proved to be difficult, and so the original graphic designer reached out to another designer who specializes in sports marketing, and “the second designer was able to tediously move the panels to get them to align,” Nick explains. “And it turns out that being a seamstress, sewing by hand, is a dying art. It’s been hard to find people who are skilled enough to handle the details.”

Once the designs were dialed in, one of the recipients of the first round of hats that Nick had created just happened to be First Descents founder Brad Ludden. “Brad came to me and said, ‘This is a great idea, how do we get in on this?’ And so we talked a bit about what would make sense to help raise some money for this amazing nonprofit that helps young adults diagnosed with cancer and multiple sclerosis.”

The result is a hat designed specifically for First Descents that features a place near and dear to the organization: a topo of the Upper Colorado River, where Brad took the first group of young adults kayaking.

The inside of the baseball cap made for First Descents depicts a topo of the Upper Colorado River, where programs first began.

“I love the idea of encouraging people to be outdoors and then having something that makes them smile when they remember the experience,” Nick says. “My wife grew up in Missouri, and she was outdoors all the time like I was. But now, it’s kids on screens all the time, and they’re playing video games the way we were playing street hockey and basketball until it got dark. I want my daughter to value the outdoors, and she’s already well on her way, but I want that for everyone.”

So now Nick – who was born outside of Boston but spent much of his childhood riding horses and wheeling around on ATVs in North Carolina, and later snowboarding and rafting whitewater with pals in places like the Grand Canyon – envisions creating custom-designed, map-based caps for a wide variety of outdoor activities, including river rafting and kayaking, hiking, biking, skiing and golf, but also ones that would feature landmarks and attractions, like the Eiffel Tower.

“So these would be not just for the adrenaline junkies, but also the people who are exploring the concrete jungle,” he says. “You can be like, ‘Oh man, I just did this trail, it was crazy hard and I didn’t think I could do it,’ or you could have just visited a bucket list destination and want something that really captures it. And so these hats are a novelty item, but they also hold more purpose and meaning.”

And as someone who has collected a closetful of cherished hats over the years, each one reminding him of places and people from the past, Nick knows how rewarding it can be to reach for a baseball that makes him smile.

“What I really want with MAP Hatter caps is that each one could forever be a piece of someone’s story,” he says.

MAP Hatter’s initial offerings include a cap that benefits First Descents’ life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer and MS.

Searching for something unique that offers a special part of First Descents’ history? MAP Hatter’s custom-designed hat with that topo of the Upper Colorado River is available now in our store, with the proceeds going straight toward funding life-changing outdoor adventures for young adults dealing with cancer or multiple sclerosis, as well as their caregivers and healthcare workers.

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