Thoughts on Personal Branding (from the “Hat Man”)

I have been labeled (branded) the “Hat Man.” If you go to my company’s homepage and scroll down to the team section, you will notice that where a job title should be I’m designated simply as the “Hat Man.” I guess that means I get paid for wearing a fedora?

That designation was a gradual thing. I have always loved hats and went from baseball caps as a kid to drivers caps in college. My wife bought my first nice fedora while on a trip to Savannah. I wore that fedora more and more, then I got another fedora, and another. At some point between 2013 and 2015 I somewhat unintentionally switched to wearing a fedora most of the time. During that time we also rebuilt the Sideways8 website, I put up my bio, and one of my teammates jokingly went into my bio and changed my job title to the “Hat Man, ” and it stuck.

After that, I decided that a cool haircut was something I never really could pull off anyway, but a cool hat, that I could do! So I embraced wearing fedoras and chose to make that my personal brand. It’s funny the effects that choice has had. Here are a few of the things I have noticed:

  • The hat makes me much easier to recognize and remember. I have people come up to me from time to time like they know me, just because they have seen me a place or two and continue to recognize me. I think it’s a micro-glimpse into what being a celebrity must be like.
  • When I meet someone for coffee for the first time, I just tell them I’m the guy in the hat. It makes me easy to spot.
  • People enjoy seeing if I will live up to the “Hat Man” reputation. I remember meeting one client for the first time, I had gotten to the restaurant early, sat down and removed my hat (to be polite). The first thing the client did on arriving was ask if I had my hat! He had seen my bio on our website and wanted to see if I lived up to the reputation.
  • People think I’m a musician (which I wish were true, but is not).
  • I get random comments from complete strangers a few times a week saying, “Nice hat!” or “Love the hat!”

For the reasons above and several more, I’m a big fan of having a personal brand. Something that is uniquely you that helps you to stand out in people’s minds. I’ll confess, my personal brand wasn’t always a sweet fedora. In high school, my personal brand was tie-dye t-shirts and bright orange Doc Martin boots (yes, you read that correctly, [head shaking]). As I look back over my life, I have always sought ways to be individualistic.

But, having a personal brand isn’t always about wearing something that makes you stand out. I have friends whose personal brand is humor. One friend comes to mind that makes me laugh all of the time when we meet up. I have another friend whose personal brand is radical candor. I know when I meet with him he is likely to ask me a question so personal that no other person would dare ask it. But this guy asks the question in the same manner that he asked me what I had for breakfast! Some peoples’ personal brand is their kindness, lovingness, or willingness to help someone in need at any time.

I think every person has a personal brand, something that is uniquely them that makes them remarkable. My encouragement to you is to find that brand and own it. Invest in emphasizing your personal brand. In doing so, you will stand out more and more! But a word of caution, bright orange Doc Martins might not be your best bet…

Posted in ,