The Unraveled Thread – The Baseball Cap

Foto: Hayley Warnham
Wearing any bit of fabric always means carrying a bit of history on your body. Garments reveal many things and The Unraveled Thread will take apart one fashion element at a time to discover the then and now.

The baseball cap has endured for generations as an irreplaceable part of the all-American uniform. When, how and which type of baseball cap you wear can speak volumes of your persona, profession or heritage. We take the five panel cap apart section by section.

Its origins: The first baseball hats were made of straw. The New York Knickerbockers wore them in 1849. By 1900 the trademark long visor and button on top look was established along with new innovations like displaying the team’s emblem, which the Detroit Tigers were first to do. Up until 1954 it was up to each baseball player to choose a hat that would keep the sun out of his eyes. There was no consistency among players or teams until a company called New Era designed a standard cap in 1954 called »59Fifty«, which brought uniformity to the game and still remains the official cap.

In pop culture history: The baseball cap is pretty much the unofficial uniform of film directors too – ever seen Spielberg direct a film without it? It was also director Spike Lee who made the cap fashionable beyond baseball. In 1994 he requested a cap manufacturer to make him a Yankees cap in unofficial colors. Lee’s red Yankee cap got noticed and since then caps in all colors and patterns are being designed and worn.

Its underground culture: Baseball caps are part of gang culture. Which cap you wear doesn’t signal which team you root for but the gang that you are in. Cincinnati Reds are repped by the Bloods, Crips have adopted the blue LA cap and the Gangsters Disciples from Chicago wear the Detroit Tiger cap for its big »D«.

Its use in advertisement: Caps can be used to turn their wearer into a walking billboard. In October 2012 Eminem used to the cap to fashionably advertise his eighth studio album release. As a Detroit local he of course used the Detroit Tiger cap and stitched a list of each year in which he released an album on the cap including the yet to be released 2013 album.

In fashion: After Spike Lee turned the cap into a fashion statement beyond fan merchandise the possibilities of how to wear it became endless. Will Smith as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and fashion icon of the 90s played around with the cap and literally pushed it to extremes: instead of bending the visor he flattened it and pushed it to the top, the colors were clashing in neon yellow and blue and his caps would be color coordinated to his tops and bottoms. In the late nineties the hipster began sporting trucker caps – bright colored, plastic netted and logo covered caps formerly associated with truck drivers. No matter if forward, backward, sideways, visor cupped or flat – it’s all a statement.