UNC-Chapel Hill student, basketball player and hat designer. If you haven’t heard of Shea Rush, keep your eyes on the basketball court and fashion industry.
With 18.3K followers on his Instagram account, Rush, the 6-foot-6 forward for the UNC-CH men's basketball team, has utilized his presence on social media, campus and the basketball court to make his name known.
“Kansas City Bred,” Rush says while proudly representing his hometown Kansas City, Missouri. Raised by JaRon Rush and Sarah Hofstra, he equates his success to the support he received from his parents and especially his mom.
“My mom is my rock, she holds it down and always tells me to go after what I want to do,” Rush said.
Off the court, Rush was looking for something more. He had the idea to make custom fedoras. Professional athletes like Cameron Newton and Lebron James began making bold fashion choices at press conferences and post game interviews which got Rush’s attention.
There were no hat shops in Kansas City, so he thought to make his own. Rush took it upon himself to look up what he needed to get started and ordered his own materials.
“Fedoras are pretty expensive – if you want a good one you have to get it custom fitted,” he said.
Rush’s custom fedoras are made out of a beaver fur pelt, sanded down and steamed. This process makes the fur malleable over block shapes. Once formed into a hat, you iron out the brim to create a break line.
Rush still wears the first hat he ever made. It is one of his favorite pieces, and it grabbed people’s attention when he started wearing it around town. Rush expanded his idea and created the business “Hats By Shea.”
The fedoras are personally designed for each customer. He hopes his fedoras attract anyone interested in fashion and investing in “a quality product that will last a long time,” he said.
When Rush first began selling his hats, he received 350 orders. Soon, he was flooded with 500 orders and couldn’t keep up with demand. Although he has been approved by the NCAA to sell his product, he is taking time off to focus on basketball season and earn good grades. After basketball season, he hopes to get his website live and begin filling orders again.
Rush never really considered plans to continue in the fashion industry until this past year when he took a business class that involved fashion marketing.
“This started as something fun to get my mind off basketball,” he said. “I know it won’t last forever, so I take school seriously to set self up for something great.”
Rush’s custom fedoras have gained national attention. USA Today and Business Insider have published articles featuring his growing business. His teammates, family and friends are his support system through it all.
Each member of the UNC basketball team received a custom made fedora, including Coach Roy Williams. The team wore these hats when they played in the final four and won.
With the 2017 basketball season starting up, we can expect to see the team sporting their custom made "Hats by Shea" once again.