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Outside » Outside Features

The Baseball Cap: Why we wear these things on our heads

Why do we wear baseball hats?

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I wish I could have been in the meeting. I would have had some valuable input to provide, especially considering I'd be from the future, my time traveler identity concealed by a fabulously curly mustache. The meeting? I'm of course referring to the gathering of old-timey baseballers sometime after the Civil War when it was decided that a hat would be required atop the heads of all baseball players.

This is a seminal moment in not just sports history, but in the narrative of Western style. Imagine if some guy named Chester Knickerbocker Westinghouse (those were the sort of names people had back then) were to have spoken up.

"The idea of these caps is a straight crackerjack, I tell ya, but would not we be remiss if we didn't at least explore other head-adornment options?" Westinghouse, also fabulously mustached, would have said, receiving a chorus of "here, here" and "oh bully" from the assembled baseball royalty.


What if Westinghouse were to present the idea of top hats (which were fashionable at the time, along with hair tonic and abolitionism) or headbands or yarmulkes? Or maybe veils or beekeeper's helmets? Just think, we, as fans, could have easily been wearing, as a sign of our chosen Major League Baseball allegiance, top hats or scarves or some equally embarrassing item on or around our heads.

But thankfully, there was never a man named Chester Knickerbocker Westinghouse, and also thankfully, baseball players wear a rather aesthetically pleasing and inarguably practical choice of the baseball cap. And so do we. Take a look at the stands the next time you watch a televised baseball game. Nearly everyone is wearing a cap, most of them identical to those worn by the players on the field. This would be like basketball fans wearing high-top sneakers to a game or horseracing enthusiasts strapping on a saddle.

Now, with basketball finally concluded and hockey fans mostly jailed, it's baseball season. I recently decided to begin wearing a baseball cap, partially because I need a haircut and also because I've decided to make this my first summer in more than a decade as a devoted fan of the Seattle Mariners. Thus, I began wearing my 1981 throwback M's hat, complete with trident and all. I've been waiting for some other Mariners fan to see my hat and give me a high-five, recognizing our shared allegiance to a team that will almost certainly break our hearts. It hasn't happened yet. We Mariners fans are a closeted and hardly boisterous bunch, even though we have Ichiro and the best french fries in the game.

I'll keep wearing the hat, just as I'll keep making the sort of snap judgments about other people I see wearing Major League Baseball hats, which goes something like this. Boston Red Sox: Dude is still living in 2004, or perhaps is from New England. L.A. Dodgers: Dude might punch you in the face. Arizona Diamondbacks: Dude, really? S.F. Giants: Dude might get punched in the face. Florida Marlins: Dude, quit trying to be ironic. New York Yankees: Dude is an asshole. Or else he grew up in New York and is an asshole.

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