When I first moved to Nashville, I noticed something: So many people here wear something related to Nashville on their clothes! I even saw people wearing the airport’s name, BNA, on a hat. That’s how proud people are to live here.
So of course, I went out and bought a NASH hat to show off my new home. Then I noticed all these brands popping up selling Nashville merchandise – and here’s the thing: It wasn’t cheesy or touristy at all. So I decided to round up my favorite Nashville merch and learn about the entrepreneurs behind them.
615, BNA, NASH, Native, even the Batman building, they’re all symbols and slogans unique to Nashville. “You have the Nash hat, the ‘Ville hat, the Tri-Star,” says Laci Bonner, who created the NASH hats and owns Revv Boutique in Hillsboro Village. “I wanted something that was a Nashville souvenir without being cheesy,” which is why she came up with the collection. Bonner is originally from Arkansas, but loved Nashville and wanted to make this her home. After starting a boutique, she wanted to take it a step further with her own line: The Nash Collection.
Those four-lettered hats, a simple concept that’s become even easier to sell. Especially when she launched the SMASH hat, Predators fans devoured them. “Demand for the product was out of control. We simply couldn’t keep up. You think 300 hats would cover it, 500 hats would cover it, but no,” says Bonner.
During the playoffs, sales were up 280 percent over where they were the year before. “The two-toned trucker hat we legit cannot keep in stock,” says Bonner.
Even after the season ended, the SMASH hat remained the boutique’s number 1 seller. “We just had a guy in here needing two Smash hats. I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon.”
And just like the growth of our city, the love for it is here to stay, that’s something Nashville native Billings Gemmill can relate to. “It’s one of the greatest cities in the world, to me it always has been,” says Gemmill. So he created a design of the iconic Batman building with a little Nashville twist. “People recognize it from all over the world,” says Gemmill. “I took the rock and roll sign, and then the Tri-Star, I made it like stars, then the star that represents Nashville is crooked, to make it a statement piece. Add a little sass to it.”
Gemmill owns a production company in Nashville, called Six One Live.
That ‘sass’ is what makes Nashville so unique. “I get goosebumps when I talk about it. It’s true. This place is special for a lot of reasons,” says Gemmill.
The Nashville natives wear that title with pride, because finding a true native is kind of like finding a unicorn. “It’s very rare these days,” says Amber Ford, who started the Native in Nashville blog to share her love for the city. Then, on a whim, she created t-shirts. “It took off like crazy. I’ve probably sold about 2 thousand shirts, and hats, I cannot keep them in stock,” she says.
Amber says it’s surreal to see people wearing her shirts around town, but it’s not surprising. “People just like to be proud to be from Nashville. I think that’s part of the reason why it’s taken off.”
But the 615-pride isn’t just for the natives or even the people who call it home now. “Nashville has always been embracing,” says Gemmill.
And just like on the shirts you see around town, our motto is pretty simple: Spread love, it’s the Nashville way.
You can buy the NASH and SMASH hats at Revv Boutique in Hillsboro Village, Gemmill’s take on the Batman building merchandise at Grimey’s and a Thousand Faces in Hillsboro Village and the Native in Nash collection on their website.