Tommy explores the history of America's favorite topper
The baseball cap has inspired many fans in its long career — some to extremes. One man in Minnesota has collected over 109,000. Another man plunked down over $530,000 to capture a 1930s‐era model worn by Babe Ruth. But the iconic accessory's origins are much more humble.
The first official baseball hat, in fact, didn't resemble today's at all ‐ it was a full‐brimmed straw hat, introduced in 1849 by the New York Knickerbockers. It wasn't until a decade later, when the Brooklyn Excelsiors debuted a rounded‐crown, front-brimmed hat, that the modern cap began to take shape.
The standard model now worn on-field, the 59Fifty, was introduced in 1954 — but off‐field, it wasn't until the 1980s that the baseball cap hit a cultural home run. In that decade, Tom Selleck became the first leading man to don the accessory on hit TV show Magnum, PI. Wolfgang Puck doffed the traditional chef's toque in favor of a cap at his buzzy LA restaurant Spago. Ken Griffey Jr. famously and habitually wore his hat backwards before and after games. And Spike Lee's predilection for an old‐fashioned Brooklyn Dodgers cap launched a vogue for vintage versions. In fact, all launched legions of fans and copycats.
By the '90s, the flat‐brimmed snapback cap was all the rage, a style propelled by hip‐hop pioneers like N.W.A. and Tupac Shakur, as well as Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel‐Air and Michael Jordan. Then, a decade later, the mesh‐backed trucker hat became the cap du jour, pulled from the stock of feed stores to crown the heads of proponents Pharrell Williams, Ashton Kutcher and Justin Timberlake.
Today, the love affair with the baseball cap continues. It's worn by presidents, thereby, rendering the trusty staple as relevant now as it was when it first debuted 150 years ago.