In college, while on assignment as a costumer, digging through a Goodwill bin in a small Indiana town, I pulled out a ratty, six panel, dark green, buffalo check cap. Tied in a simple bow in front, it had an exterior hat band attached with seam tape to allow the band to slide up and down, “A brilliant idea for an ear cover,” I thought. The cap was invented by Stormy Kromer, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
George “Stormy” Kromer. It takes a man like this to design a cap like that.
Each Stormy Kromer Cap is sewn with a patch that includes the following:
George “Stormy” Kromer was a semi-pro ballplayer and railroad engineer that always lost his hat to the gusts of wind that blew through the locomotive. So he asked his wife, Ida, to put needle and thread to one of his old baseball caps. The “Kromer” they created in 1903 is now legendary for its comfort, warmth, durability… and grip when the wind blows.
General Manager, Freddy Pina and Owner, Bob Jacquart.
Imagine it, on a cold winter’s day at the turn of the century, railman Stormy asks his wife Ida to fix his hat to stay put on his head. First, she sewed ear flaps on the cap, which could be lowered up and down, depending upon the temperature outside. Then, she changed the angle of the visor ever so slightly, angling it downward so it wouldn’t catch in the wind.
Cheryl Bjork, Stormy Kromer’s Line Supervisor.
If the two girls who never returned my Kromers have any say, the caps Mr. and Mrs. Kromer came up with all those years ago, are as smartly designed as they are functional. Try one. See how long you hold onto it. As Lindsay Piper, a manager at Stormy Kromer informed me, “Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to add any anti-theft features.” While it won’t blow off my head in a windstorm, I’ve yet to make it through an entire winter without losing my cap to a sticky-fingered friend.
The Jacquart Fabric Products Factory. Apple Trees line the path between buildings.
The caps, once manufactured by the Kromer Cap Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, were nearly lost to the pages of history, until Bob Jacquart, owner of Jacquart Fabric Products, Inc. learned of their possible demise and bought the manufacturing and distributing rights to the caps. Now the Upper Peninsula factory, located on the Wisconsin-Michigan border, proudly employs a number of the 8,000 Yoopers who call the area home.
Today, from the railroad engineers, for whom the hat was originally designed, to Packer fans** and motorcycle enthusiasts, who pushed for the design of the brimless variety, everyone enjoys all the warm benefits of the cap designed by the madman they called “Stormy.”
*A lover of the written word, after reading The Catcher in the Rye, I searched high and low for the cap Holden Caulfield wore. Of all the caps I found, the Stormy Kromer most closely matches Salinger’s description.
**Read more about the Officially Licensed Lambau Field Stormy Kromer Cap.
All images of the factory c/o Lindsay Piper, Manager at Stormy Kromer.