Early last Saturday, I engineered a near-perfect outfit, in no small part because of a baseball cap. I ventured out in the morning rain wearing a sooty pair of low-rise Converse that made me look like Pigpen from Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts,” (laundered) white ankle socks, a navy blue Stutterheim rain-jacket over a white T-shirt dress, and a white-on-white limited edition baseball cap, Outdoor Voices’s embroidered wordmark only faintly legible. I took the subway to meet my friend in Chinatown; we were planning to head upstate. Tasked with grabbing us two iced coffees for the road trip, I hustled from Gasoline Alley with a carry-all tray in hand across Grand Street. It was then when, gasp, a gust of wind blew my hat right off my head and straight into oncoming traffic, where it ended its airborne rigmarole by floating neatly and precisely into a deep and dirty puddle. A tale as old as time. When my hat and I parted ways like two loose AirPods at the bottom of a tote bag, my outfit was rendered incomplete.
I only really remember to wear a baseball cap when I’m packing for a trip, forced to consider the elements I might encounter over the stretch of days or in unfamiliar terrain. (If you’re wondering how often you wear baseball caps, search “baseball hat” in your iPhone’s image library. Freaky!) That might be why I was surprised by its impact on my outfit, and how nicely it paired with my new chin-length haircut. If you’d told me that day that I looked like Paul Rudd playing 1930s Red Sox player Moe Berg in The Catcher Was A Spy, I would have blushed.
Is it just me, or are baseball caps the new graphic T-shirts? (Said with the understanding that there’s pretty much nothing new about a baseball cap.) Maybe I’m asking because we’re viewing them through a new prism in the age of the “Scumbro.” I know I’m not the only one who thinks the most refreshing outfits of the moment clothe a slew of just-short-of-sloppy boys: Shia LaBeouf, Jonah Hill, Frank Ocean, John Mayer, Timothée Chalamet, Pete Davidson and Ezra Koenig (he of the particularly 90s flair with a twist of Ivy League lime) to name a few.* Part of the appeal of this group, whose attire might be otherwise described as “fast casual,” is that their clothes look more like merch and less like fashion, but ultimately translate to “style.” The baseball caps are one ingredient in this breakfast burrito of a recipe and an emblem of effortless (meant quite literally: zero effort) cool. All told, these outfits exude the energy of a person perpetually court-side at a Knicks game. (Gird your loins, I’m about to embed a photo from a Timothée Chalamet fan account.)
Perhaps the baseball cap reached its peak this year when Special Counsel Robert Mueller was seen driving to his office, crowned with a hat from Sea Ranch (an unincorporated community off of California’s Route 1) just days before filing his final report. It was the only non-neutral, vaguely personal thing about Mueller as the Associated Press photographed him performing a mundane activity, ostensibly so reporters would have an image to run alongside the impending deluge of Mueller Report stories.
i just really want to know what his hat says pic.twitter.com/HZxO2RHVAv
— Amanda Hess (@amandahess) March 22, 2019
Baseball caps offer a very small canvas for big ideas. I wonder, are jokes or quips that have to land in three words a copywriter’s heaven or their nightmare? Baseball caps also combine three of my favorite things: typefaces, embroidery, and words. That being said, this genre of accessory remains a goldmine of untapped graphic design potential.
I’ve scouted the market and compiled a list of the United States’ five most eligible baseball caps available right now, and like candles on a birthday cake, I included one extra for good luck. Now, who wants a hat?
Why I don’t have this hat already, I do not know. It subverts the form of a baseball cap itself, melding the iconic New York Mets logo with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s brand-spanking-new(ish) identity. I highly recommend this hat to anyone who thinks about that Mad Men episode wherein Don Draper sings “Meet the Mets” whenever baseball season resumes. (*High-speed infomercial voice*: 50% of The Mets Hat proceeds go to Planned Parenthood while the other half goes to RAICES Texas.)
2. The Wisecrack
There is something 90s about this reinvigoration around baseball caps. The cap is where a matter-of-fact sense of humor manifests: it’s a vehicle for snark, normcore and lo-fi self-awareness. Pick your poison accordingly: “per my last e-mail,” “Big Daddy,” “Byzantine Art Club,” “Alternative Fiction,” “Finance,” etc. Be sure to bow your head excessively when wearing Shameless Enterprise’s “Writing an email” number for maximum impact.
3. The Perk for Avis’s Preferred Customers
Emily Oberg has a thing for nerdy car merch, which I get because I feel the same way about tech merch. Following the maxim that you can’t get what you want if you don’t ask for it, you must arm yourself with a super specific search term on Etsy or eBay in order to find the many vintage items (or “grail“) worth putting atop your head. If this one puts you on the fence, the Department of Transportation might be in your comfort zone.
Which brings me to my next bulletpoint: Long after The Cords & Co has shuttered its doors, corduroy still reigns supreme. I love all of the apparel Studio A-OK designs, but consider their hats your gateway. For more corduroy, consider Rowing Blazers‘ selection: it’s been Chalamapproved.
5. The Future Collectible
For people who still roll up their sleeves and get their fingers dirty with newsprint. Apologies in advance if you read the New York Post or the WSJ.
6. Bonus Round: The Pretty, Pretty Good One
If you’re going to ornament yourself with something that serves as an extra layer of sun protection, why not do so while broadcasting what you watch in the shade of your own home? You have two speeds: Dick Wolf or Larry David.
And if you liked (or lusted after) our semi-elusive Man Repeller cap (below), you’re gonna love what comes next (this summer!).
*(I think I just named the guest list for my dream dinner party.)
Feature image by Simon Chetrit.