(From left) Hatnuts staff Didi Gugel, Micha Schwarz, Tobi Egerer, Jules Knoll and Sebi Mertens demonstrate the fun of crotchet in self-made woolly hats.

By Marc Herwig

What are the elements of a perfect guy’s night in for sport students?
Cold drinks, a soccer match on TV — and crochet hooks. Five students from the city of Tuebingen in southwest Germany combined those elements and transformed a hobby into an ongoing business.
They spend their evenings and nights at home together crocheting hats and other headgear.
At first their girlfriends thought they were crazy but that switched to finding their crocheting boyfriends sexy.
The all-male crochet club has developed into a successful online company with several employees.
Sales of the hats made by the Hatnuts, as they call themselves, are thriving thanks to their cool image. The five Hatnuts sport designer stubble in a photograph on their website.
They uploaded a video to YouTube and published a crochet book for young people.
“Your granny’s instruction manual just doesn’t have the same appeal that ours does,” says Didi Gugel. About 100 orders a week arrive through the online shop and over 1,000 of the handmade hats are sold each year.
It all started out on a remote, romantic farm without TV or Internet in the mountains in southern Germany. Gugel had a job as a snowboard teacher during his university studies.
“The evenings were terribly long and I needed a hat that fitted me.”
He remembered his handicraft lessons back in school and started to crochet. At first with modest results.
It was his aunt who taught him on his next visit home how to crochet properly. After many dark winter’s nights he crocheted his very first hat. Later on some friends from Tuebingen dropped by and were pretty envious.
“They wanted me to crochet hats for them.” But Gugel had a better idea.
Back in Tuebingen he organised a crochet seminar. Fifteen students participated and five of them stayed as the core team: besides Didi Gugel, the other Hatnuts members are Tobi Egerer, Sebi Mertens, Micha Schwarz and Jules Knoll.
Quickly the knitting club became the talk of the university. “The initial reaction was always the same: ‘How embarrassing can you get?’ But it wasn’t long before they were asking: ‘Can I have one too?” Gugel says.
“One thing is for sure: crocheting doesn’t mean you are not a man. Actually it attracts women,” he says without giving further details.
But in terms of women, the Hatnuts share a strict code of conduct: crochet must not be a means to hook girls.
They are only allowed to give something made from crochet to their current partners.
But a lot has changed since the five started crocheting. They completed their sports studies and while looking for jobs have moved all over Germany and beyond.
In their regular lives they work as teachers for mathematics and sports, as computer scientists for fitness studio systems, as a division manager for a big sports retailer and in sports for the disabled.
At the same time orders for their hats have grown. They sponsored Germany’s national Paralympics Nordic ski team this year and one of their hats was even on Mount Everest.
“The time is over when we were crocheting the orders in our student apartments,” Gugel says.
“But if you insist on having a hat made by one of us personally, you can write ‘I want Didi to crochet mine’ on the order.”
Even though time is in short supply for the Hatnuts, none of the five can stop crocheting.
“It’s simply in your blood: If you’re in front of the TV you automatically reach over for the crochet hooks,” Gugel says. “After all, it is our passion.” — DPA

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