Our third article in the Iconic Series–where we construct The American Outfit–is dedicated to the baseball hat.
The game of baseball has been an active member of American culture since the Civil War, an institution since the start of the twentieth century, and America’s true pastime since 1947, when Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues. Though the sport has given us countless legends, myths, rituals, and ceremonies–from Babe Ruth calling his shot to the 7th inning stretch–its most lasting, and certainly most physical, impression on U.S. culture is the cap on which its kings are crowned.
The hat has mounted players’ heads since baseball’s mythical inception in the mid-19th century, manifesting its self in a variety of styles: long and short billed, high and low crown, wool and polyester fabric. But throughout its various forms the hat’s symbolic weight has only grown in the eyes of the American sporting public.
Off the field, a baseball hat is a statement. It’s not just about what group of twenty-five guys you support between April and October, its the story you have chosen for yourself and the history that was handed to you. It is loyalty and it is pride. It is about being a part of something bigger than yourself.
In the forties, fifties, and sixties, the baseball hat was a perfect accessory to represent youth. Instead of the gray, 9-to-5 fedoras harkening the hum of florescent office lighting, the cap brought forth the Boys of Summer, of endless afternoons spent in the clouds of dust drifting across a backlot diamond–Sandlot Cowboys. Each kid with their favorite hat: the one perfectly formed to the contour of their head; the one that they only take off at church and at the dinner table; the one they were wearing on the first day of school and when they went on their first date and their team won the pennant.
Yes, the logo embroidered on the front is alienating in many respects, but it is also unifying at its core. A well-loved hat is a well-loved hat, and the creases on the crown, the sweat stains spreading on the band and the dirt on the bill cross over rivalries–Red Sox and Yankees, Democrats and Republicans–and gets at the core of sport, family, neighborhood, city, and state.
All that is worn and loved in our country is stitched in the six panels of the baseball hat.