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The Rise In Status Of The Baseball Cap

Monday 02 April 2018 at 8:41 pm.

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for March 29, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

When my wife worked in the yard on a sunny day last week, she wore a baseball cap I had given her from my collection, though she has her own cap with rhinestones on it. I’ve noticed that my oldest daughter wears a baseball cap when she goes fishing. It’s interesting how the baseball cap, once a man only thing, has now become part of a woman’s stylish attire. In fact, it’s fascinating how this head covering has evolved from part of a baseball player’s uniform to a widely worn headdress for men and women.

            It happened so fast, -- at what point in history did farmers and ranchers switch from straw hats and Stetsons to the all-American cap, at what point in history did the urban businessman decide it was OK to wear a cap, and at what point did women find cap-wearing fashionable?

            The first baseball caps appeared in 1849, and they were made of straw. A few years later, caps were also made from merino wool, and even, for those who couldn’t afford wool, flannel. At first the bill was made of a transparent green-tinted material, which from the point of view of glare control, seemed like a great idea, but it never really caught on.

            Photos of the early baseball players show how the cap changed over the years. The cap Chuck Comiskey wore for the St. Louis Browns in the 1870’s was a cross between a striped engineer’s cap and a Dutch boy’s chapeau. In the early 1900’s, Honus Wagner played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, wearing a cap more rounded than today’s version with a very short brim. Babe Ruth wore a similar cap, and umpires wear something very like that today. In 1925, Lefty Grove wore a cap which looked like a short, pouffy turban with a brim.

            When I was teaching at WCJC in the 1960’s and 70’s, it seems that there were more and more baseball caps appearing on the heads of male students. Also, about that time, baseball caps with logos were big giveaway items, given by various companies. So guys started collecting caps, -- you had your Astros cap, but you also had your John Deere cap, your Nike cap, your Ace Builders cap, etc. About ten years ago, I began to notice girls and women were more and more wearing caps, identical to men’s caps but some with sequins and rhinestones, and with their pony tails hanging through the fastener opening in the back of the cap.

            Although my mother and my grandmother always wore sun bonnets regularly until the day they died, one of my mother’s sisters was ahead of her times in that she wore a baseball cap, but with no pony tail hanging out. I do believe she was the only woman who wore a cap in Dime Box in the 1920’s, ‘30’s, and ‘40’s.

            Back in the 1940’s, when I was a kid there, wearing a western hat, or “cowboy hat,” as we called it, was much more popular among guys than wearing a cap, -- at least in Dime Box. When caps became so universally popular, no doubt Texans had to struggle to decide which suited them the best, and, I think, in general, the cap won out.

            And then, the rise in status of the lowly cap was completed when President Trump frequently appeared in public wearing his USA cap. His appearing with such a cap seemed to further popularize and legitimize the wearing of a cap anywhere, and regardless of your political orientation. Such a boost to the prestige of wearing a cap helped to make it a more popular head covering in Europe and Asia.

            When Mrs. Trump went with her husband to tour the devastated areas after Hurricane Harvey, wearing a similar cap as her husband’s, with the words “FLOTUS” embossed across the front, the fashion status of the cap was secured.

            Nowadays, most Christian bookstores advertise baseball caps with an assortment of Christian logos on the front, and with a selection of short brim, long brim, curved brim, flat brim, all styles. The Christian cap of choice, available on Amazon this Easter season, proclaims, “He Is Risen” in white embroidery. Happy Easter!


Ray Spitzenberger is a free-lance writer and artist who lives in East Bernard with his beautiful wife Peggy and spoiled cat Gatsby.

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