The Ears Have It: Great Geeky Hats from GrapevineFires

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GrapevineFires Cthulhu HatGrapevineFires Cthulhu Hat

GrapevineFires Cthulhu Hat

There was a time not too very long ago when the convention season was somewhat confined to the summer months. It was simpler era, for sure, but one of sorely limited distractions. These days, however, con season has swelled to encompass everything from early spring until nearly autumn. Yet despite the new-found variety in convention environments, I still always find myself asking the same three questions at any event I attend:

Does he not realize he’s too big for that Flash costume?
How much electrical tape is that young woman wearing?
and
Where did he get that cool-ass hat?

At long last, I can put that final question to rest. For you see, at least down in my neck of the woods, the premier supplier of bizarre convention headgear is surely Atlanta’s GrapevineFires.

Crafters Harper Evans and Michael Rucker have been hawking their unique wares since 2005 via their own dedicated web site, Etsy and, of course, conventions throughout the southeast. And while they offer everything from custom-made bags and pillows to plushies and tails, their primary focus is obviously novelty headwear.

The duo was nice enough to favor me with a fine and varied selection of items for review, and I was immediately impressed with the obvious care that was taken to ensure build quality. Rather than crude constructs of glue and felt, each hat was instead composed of sturdy fleece that was ably stitched and amply sized. Of course, while quality itself is important, the true selling point of a GrapevineFires hat is its undeniably geeky style.

The “base model,” as it were, is your typical beanie: a cozy if rather unassuming garment that should easily fit most adult noggins. GrapevineFires kicks it up a notch by adorning these beanies with everything from original designs, like colossal eyeballs and exposed brain matter, to take-offs on your favorite comics and videogames.

GrapevineFires Mudkip HatGrapevineFires Mudkip Hat

GrapevineFires Mudkip Hat

A notch above your standard beanie, and, from the looks of it, the bread and butter of GrapevineFires is the animal ear hat. These tacked-on ears come in three distinct styles – cat, fox and bunny – and they do add some additional charm and an obvious anime aesthetic with their contrasting colors and clever designs.

For the more shameless among you, Harper and Michael will even combine the aforementioned hat types. Because, y’know, maybe you want a Triforce logo hat with kitty ears. And that’s okay. I’m not here to judge.

The real haymaker, however, is surely the character hat. With designs ranging from the benign (bears and piggies) to the bizarre (Cactuars and Mudkips), these are likely your big convention floor attention-getters. Don’t get me wrong: while my power symbol/rabbit ears hat was a big hit with the family, it was the great winged Cthulhu that truly made a believer out of me. It’s exactly the kind of shameless conversation piece that captures the spirit of the con, even when you’re just wearing it around the office. Alternately amusing and terrifying your coworkers.

In addition to some hats for the resident GeekDaddy, GrapevineFires also hooked me up with some of their children’s designs – teddy bear and Pikachu, for those of you keeping score – which my geeklings adore. Though they fit a bit loose on my two-year-old, they are perfectly sized for my kindergartner, and, after a couple of washes, still seem bright and durable enough to assure me he’ll have plenty of time to enjoy them. Clearly, they put as much care into assembling these diminutive pieces as they do their full-size products.

This brings me to the only real drawback of GrapevineFires goods or, for that matter, most handmade wares: the price. Beanies and ear hats typically list for between $20-25, and the character hats are pretty much $30 across the board. While this certainly isn’t an exorbitant amount, custom work is a good bit more expensive. Whether that means too expensive is, of course, an individual judgment call that depends heavily on how much wear you plan to get out of a given item and whether or not you are your party’s healer.

GrapevineFires Dr. Zoidberg HatGrapevineFires Dr. Zoidberg Hat

GrapevineFires Dr. Zoidberg Hat

Thankfully, GrapevineFires also has a delightful low cost option that serves as the perfect impulse purchase on your annual Dragon*Con shopping spree. It’s their take on the classic Futurama brain slug, an interesting little plushie that includes removable clips that can easily be attached to your hair or cap for some instant cosplay action. At $15, it hits the financial sweet spot.

The more time I’ve spent enjoying my GrapevineFires hats, the less I’ve come to think of them as apparel or even novelty accessories. Instead I’ve begun to consider them wearable fan art, fuzzy tributes to late night monster movies, comic book binges and all the other things that make nerd life so grand. And while no one really needs a hat emblazoned with the face of Dr. Zoidberg, it is exactly the kind of thing that’s likely to put a smile on yours.

WIRED: Great quality, handmade, adult and kids sized hats, nerdtastic selection of themed con-wear and accessories, special orders available

TIRED: custom pieces can get a bit pricey, lots of tails and ears so, y’know, furries

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