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Published: Saturday, 1/24/2004

Entertainers make hit of Deere's down-home hats

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Actor Ashton Kutcher sports a John Deere cap during an August appearance on ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.' Actor Ashton Kutcher sports a John Deere cap during an August appearance on ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.'
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John Deere baseball caps that once labeled wearers as straight off the farm have gotten a sales boost from young people imitating Hollywood stars.

Actor Ashton Kutcher, who comes from Iowa, where Deere & Co. has its headquarters, often has worn a John Deere cap on MTV and in other television appearances. Singer Kid Rock sported the farm cap on the cover of the December issue of Men's Journal. Actor Dennis Quaid appeared with a Deere cap on the cover of the October issue of Architectural Digest.

“This is not some orchestrated effort to get John Deere on magazine covers and into the Tonight Show,” said Ken Golden, a Deere & Co. spokesman. Nor did he predict the caps' popularity will last forever. Some trend-watchers months ago pronounced John Deere caps old hat.

But the fad still is drawing young people into some local agricultural equipment dealerships to pay $7 to $15 for caps in John Deere green.

Liechty Farm Equipment, Inc., of Archbold, sold 25 percent more caps last summer than it did the previous summer, said Julie Dominique, a salesman at Liechty's Brush Creek Sales & Rental. Kennedy-Kuhn, Inc., in Van Wert, reported an increase as well. Both dealerships typically sell hundreds of hats a year.

Across the country, Mr. Golden said, there has been a “significant” increase in hat sales in the past 18 months compared to the previous 18 months. He declined to be more specific.

Although John Deere caps typically are associated with farmers, they seldom are bought by farmers. Most full-time farmers own dozens of caps that were promotional gifts from sellers of seed, fertilizer, pesticides, and equipment, said Luke Ryan, a parts salesman at Fred Ott, Inc., John Deere dealership in Berkey. He estimated that many farmers receive five such hats a year.

Nor are farmers the biggest buyers of much of the John Deere clothing, housewares, and numerous other items emblazoned with the trademark yellow deer on a green background.

Farmers tend to be too practical to spring for John Deere lamps with stained-glass shades, lighted paintings at $150 to $200 each, or garden statues such as one of a boy holding a toy John Deere tractor, said Rita Weeden, office manager at the Van Wert dealership.



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