This baseball cap has turned into a big hit with Toronto Latinos, and a thriving business
2 brothers came up with a way to express their love for the city and their Latino roots
It's a business that all started by accident.
Toronto banker Carlos Brito, 42, and his brother Steve were lounging around one day when they came up with the idea to make baseball hats to reflect both the city where they live and their Latino roots.
It was just five hats, made for family — one for each of them, their two nephews and Carlos's daughter. The hats featured the Spanish word "Barrio" (neighbourhood) with the unmistakable Toronto skyline worked into the design, the peak of the CN Tower making up the 'i' in barrio.
It didn't take long to realize the hats were a hit.
"We wore them around the city and the feedback was phenomenal, people messaging us wanting to buy them, wanting to know where to get them," Brito explained. "So we knew we were onto something special."
So they ordered more. Sixty hats got scooped up in a weekend. Then they made 200 more.
Since then, they came up with a company name, Toronto Latinos, and set up a website in August. In just a few months they have ordered $15,000 worth of merchandise. The products include hats and t-shirts. New styles are coming out for fall.
The t-shirts are reminiscent of the popular Toronto vs. Everyone shirts, but with a Spanish flair. First it was "Toronto mi barrio" (Toronto my neighbourhood) printed across the front. Then, timely for this baseball-crazed city now in the midst of the playoffs, "Los Jays"(The Jays).
"There's a lot of Latino players on the Blue Jays team ... so I just thought it was fitting that we just put a little spin on it," Brito said. "And they've been the hottest seller."
Nicolas Panart, who goes by Nico P., had never met Brito before but the 27-year-old events promoter, who was born in Toronto to Argentinian parents, has turned into one of the brand's biggest fans.
The products spoke to Panart, who works full-time promoting Latin events and music.
He laughed, remembering when he first met Brito: "I was a little bit more than excited. I ended up buying pretty much everything he has in his merchandise," he recalled. That first purchase was seven hats and three t-shirts and he hasn't stopped. "It's amazing. Half my closet, you could say, is Barrio."
He first came across one of the hats while scrolling through his Instagram feed. But when Panart messaged the friend who'd been wearing one, he received a vague response that it came from "some guy."
'Such a powerful word'
Then one day in summer, he saw an entire family wearing the gear at the beach: three generations of latinos in the hats and t-shirts. He started chatting with them and got Brito's email address.
For Panart, it's about more than just the look. The Spanish word "barrio" means "neighbourhood" but also represents a close connection to home and one's identity.
"Barrio. Whew. Such a powerful word," he tried to explain. "Something very important, something so special to Latinos... you choose the word barrio to represent you."
As for his own barrio? "When ppl ask me: where you from? Nice and easy, no stress, I'm proud. I say I'm from Toronto."
So what's next for Toronto Latinos? They're launching beanie hats for the Toronto cold. But what they'd really like is to get some of the actual Latino Blue Jays players wearing Los Jays t-shirts.