Josh Freeman, 34, is the guy behind those infamous Squid Hats on Etsy. You know, the ones that made the rounds of the weird crafts blogs not too long ago? Here below, he tells the story behind the Internet's most bizarre headgear.
What's with the hats shaped like squids? How did you ever come up with that?
My sister got married and rather than buy her something generic I decided to make her a wedding present, something unique. After racking my brain for an idea for a week or so, one night while driving home the idea for the squidhat popped into my head. I still remember exactly where I was on the trip home when it happened. (But actually about a month later I realized that I had drawn a sketch of a pirate with a squid on his head for the 700 Things Internet Art Project.) Well, the gift went over so well that I decided to try selling some online. The first one sold in a week, the second a week later. The third took another month. It took about five months for them to really start taking off. I've since added other sizes of squids as well as other animals to fill out the stable.
Have you ever put a real squid on your head? If so, what did it feel like?
Oddly enough I have an aversion to seafood. Not an allergy understand, or even a phobia, an aversion. Ever since I was a kid at a camping trip to Mt. Palomar and their lake the idea of seafood hasn't ever really sit right with me. I guess it's kind of ironic considering that most of the plush things I make are based on sea life.
How many squid hats have you sold so far?
In total I've sold almost 400 hats but that includes squids, sharks,
mushrooms, octopi and Cthulhu. But just in squids probably more than 320.
Where do you live and what is your day job?
I live in El Cajon, Ca. A town about 20 minutes east of San Diego. It's noted for two things, the Mother Goose Parade and the Unarius Academy of Science (they have their own UFO landing pad and were once mentioned in an episode of The X-Files). I do photography, illustration, theatre acting but mostly I make hats. A couple years ago I came down with very severe headaches, bad enough that for six months I was basically stuck flat on my back. I've mostly recovered now but I found that making squid hats was something I could do during the periods I was able to sit up.
Do you sew the hats yourself?
Yes, all my hats are made by me. I had recently taken a theatrical costume design course at the local community college where I learned how to sew. I also made my first hat in that class, a very poor looking Bowler. I started out using my mom's old sewing machine, which never really enjoyed working with fleece. It was about eight months before I bought my own stronger, faster machine when I decided that I could make enough of these things to be worth it.
Is that you in the photos on your Etsy site?
Yes, that is me. I found that the best way to get the kind of photos I wanted was to use myself as the model. And they're squid hats, that's not the kind of thing you would expect to find in a fashion mag. Their listings needed a look that was out of the ordinary. I've had people tell me that the photos of me in the hats are the best part of my store,
that seeing them just puts a smile on their face.
Do you wear a squid hat to work everyday? Or, you know, out in public? If so, how do people react?
I've worn them out but they are warm fleece and living in Southern California it doesn't get cold enough to wear them often. I have taken them to Comic-con International here in San Diego and have gotten great reactions ranging from the simple “Nice hat.” to “Ahhhhh! You've got a squid on your head!” I've also had people start singing the Mario Bros. theme song after seeing me in one of my mushroom hats.
Where do people wear the hats to? Are they for Halloween costumes? Or do they wear the hats in their everyday lives as a fashion statement?
I like to imagine that some people wear them everyday, but my best sales seasons have been Halloween and Christmas. Others have gone as birthday presents or to people who just really like squids. I just sold three squids to a group of women who felt they would be perfect for their “excursion.” Excursion to what, I don't know.