The baseball cap is a universal piece of apparel. Naturally, it endures in the uniforms of all who play the sport, whether major-league, minor-league, or just for kicks. The headgear also transcends the context for which it is named. Many Americans have at least one in their closet, and people were them casually or even as a fashion item. It is a cultural staple, perhaps more definitive of this country than even the cowboy hat.
The current popularity of baseball caps is simply the latest chapter in a long history. If you have ever been curious about the origin and rise of this iconic type of hat, you have come to the right place.
The First Baseball Hats
Baseball as we know it is older than the Civil War. After the development of the game’s modern rules in 1845, players and authorities spent the remainder of the 19th century creating the traditions. Everything about it was in flux throughout that period, including what the players would even wear. The New York Knickerbockers introduced the first baseball uniform on April 24, 1849. Their straw hats resembled nothing like the caps we know today.
According to the Baseball Hall of Fame website, they switched up the look “a few years later.” Their new wool caps were built with an actual crown for support. Perhaps more importantly for the headgear’s development, they also featured a visor for blocking the sun. However, this change saw a variety of permutations over the ensuing decades. Some caps were round, some were boxy, some had “forward-tilting crowns,” and some resembled derby hats.
Clearly, standardization would take some time. However, some innovations came up in the turn of the century that would catch on across all teams. In 1901, the Detroit Tigers made their Major League debut with hats that sported their namesake animal, the first team to do so. Two years later, Spalding — already a decades-old sporting goods company of repute — introduced baseball hats with stitched visors. They lasted much longer with that construction, and every team soon adopted this style.
Defining the Look
Eventually, one team’s hat emerged as a sort of consensus choice throughout the Major League. Pillboxes, star-topped crowns, and derby hats gave way to the caps worn by the Brooklyn Excelsiors (precursors of the Dodgers, now based in Los Angeles). To look at the “Brooklyn-style” hat is to wonder if a time-traveler brought a modern snapback to 1860. The flat bill and high-front construction give away the true genealogy of today’s baseball caps.
Half of the 20th century passed before this and the aforementioned innovations settled into league-wide use. With the look of the hats largely settled, the next phase of development was in their culture. For example, only in the 1940s did every single team start displaying logos or team symbols on their hats. The rally cap came into prominence in the 1945 World Series, sparking the tradition of fans sporting headwear in unusual ways as good luck charms. Most of all, people started wearing them while watching other sports, whether they were outdoors like football or indoors like basketball.
Before we proceed, we would like to mention the origin of a variant on this hat. All we know is that at some point in the 1980s, someone asked, “What if we took a baseball cap and removed everything but the visor?” No one knows exactly who created it, or exactly when they emerged. We do know that it took off in tennis — possibly because of the huge hairstyles so prevalent in that sports scene at that time.
An American Icon
The 1950s saw an invention that would change how people used baseball caps. The development and refinement of the screen-printing process gave people a new way to customize the caps. Marketing types immediately realized that they could easily add their own logos at low prices so wearers could become walking advertisements. So began the practice of creating promotional caps and giving them away as merchandise.
Among the many different businesses and industries that adopted the baseball cap were hip-hop record labels. In the 1990s, they began offering high-end snapbacks sporting the logos of their artists and groups. Fans on both the East and West Coasts united over their affinity for these hats, which became staples of streetwear fashion. The rivalry remained, of course, leading people with no interest in baseball to start wearing the official hats of hometown sports teams. In this context, the hats represented not a team or a sport, but a community.
This brings us to Spike Lee, who changed the history of baseball caps. The film director was not just a fan of New York’s rappers, but also its athletes. In 1996, he requested that New Era create a Yankees baseball cap with custom colors, rather than the classic color scheme. Team organizations began selling hats in a variety of colors as official merchandise. Some even attribute the subsequent use of the headwear as a fashion accessory to this event.
Baseball Caps for All
More than 170 years after the first baseball teams put on a straw hat, the modern baseball cap is everywhere. Their combination of sunlight-shielding utility, comfortable material, and one-size-fits-all design makes them popular in all but the most formal and snooty dress codes. People wear them to watch pretty much any sport, take a walk, hang out at a park, or just because. Hip-hop fans, truckers, farmers, city dwellers, and many other disparate groups embrace it as part of their subculture. It seems that you just cannot miss with a baseball cap on your head.
For all these reasons and more, many companies now offer baseball caps bearing their own logos, text, and imagery. They know that everyone likes a good cap of this kind, and we at LogoUp know that as well. That is why we offer customizable baseball caps in a variety of styles and from a variety of manufacturers. Our products are high-quality and easy to personalize, and we offer them without need for minimum orders. Check out our selection of custom hats today and take part in the long history of the humble baseball cap.