OLD HAT BUT STILL POPULAR

When archaeologists in the far distant future are examining the artifacts of today’s society they’ll probably decide, after finding millions of baseball cap remnants, that we were a nation of ballplayers who, in the off seasons, built skyscraper cities, invented electronics and other marvels and went on trips to the moon  and around our solar system.

The baseball cap, according to some historians, was invented in 1849 by the New York Knickerbockers baseball team.  It had the distinctive visor and was made of straw. Succeeding designs were worn almost exclusively by ballplayers until the mid-20th century when non-athletes began to wear them instead of fedoras, derbies and berets. And whoever sees a lady wearing a pretty bonnet these days?

Suppose the caps had become widely popular from the start. Can you imagine Abraham Lincoln visiting the Union Troops around 1861 without his trademark stovepipe hat? Matthew Brady photos would show him wearing a cap from a hometown team called the Springfield Yankees.

The caps were invented to keep the sun out of the players’ eyes. Sunglasses weren’t around until 1929, so the visor was a great idea, especially for flyball-chasing outfielders. Cowboy hats were probably considered, but they would have gotten in the way of batters’ swings and pitchers’ windups, and how would a catcher get his face mask straps around a Stetson?

Since the cap is now worn in all kinds of weather by non-players, the visor also blocks rain, snow, sleet and hopefully, lightning bolts. They’ve been found to be useful by various tradesmen.  For instance, lower level painters are protected from the spillovers of their upper level colleagues.

Modern caps also serve as cranial billboards to advertise the wearer’s allegiance to sports teams, exterminating companies, breweries, etc.  Some proclaim accomplishments such as  WWII service or an opinion like “I Love NY” or “I Hate Disco”.

Some cap wearers with a rebellious streak have done away with the face-protecting feature by wearing the visor in the rear or halfway around in a desperate attempt at coolness.  It’s not a new idea. The old Sherlock Holmes style deerstalker cap has both front and rear visors and retractable ear flaps with stylish back tie strings. How cool can you get?

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