Walk down any street in New York City, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Seoul, Mumbai, Nairobi, Mexico City or Istanbul and you will definitely see one of three things: people chattering on their cell-phones, people sending text messages; and people wearing baseball caps.
One of the (perhaps) unexpected results of globalization is that much of the world now is wearing the same headgear -- baseball caps (related to a game that most of the global population neither watches, nor plays, nor even cares much about).
In European countries, Muslim veils and hijabs have become a bitter point of controversy and a political hot-potato since the issue relates directly to such contentious subjects as immigration, religion, feminism, identity and race.
But at least, veils, hijabs and turbans are beautiful to look at and part of ancient traditions… so, why aren’t the French, Germans, British and Italians similarly outraged by their people wearing those hideous, God-awful, genderless, American-style baseball caps?
Let me interject that I am a huge fan of Major League Baseball and especially love its grand history and pageantry. An important aspect of baseball culture is the uniforms and caps worn by the players -- i.e., the ‘iconic symbols’ of the National Pastime. I love the interlocking ‘NY’ of the Yankees cap; the regal ‘P’ of the Phillies; the elegant English script ‘D’ of the Detroit Tigers; and even that goofy cartoon bird that graces the bills of the Baltimore Orioles caps.
Baseball players look very stylish in their uniforms, including the caps.
But this is where it should stop.
No one else should ever wear a baseball cap; it serves no purpose, neither practical nor aesthetic.
Okay, I can allow for some exceptions. I have no problem with fans wearing the caps of their favorite teams when attending a game. I can see why people who work in certain industries (like food-handlers or deliverymen) need to wear such caps. I can also sympathize with balding men wanting to hide their scarcity of hair by covering their heads; or women who wish to conceal ‘bad hair day’ with a cap.
Still, even the latter cases, wouldn’t a handsome derby or stylish beret do the same trick?
(I also don’t mind little children wearing baseball caps, since they look cute and charming no matter what they adorn their heads with).
Baseball caps have now become a plague – and it seems there is no escape from them.
Watch a football game when Eli Manning or Tom Brady are standing on the sidelines -- they are wearing baseball caps. Watch an NBA draft -- the lucky young newly-minted multi-millionaires are wearing baseball caps (with their new basketball team’s logo emblazoned on them, of course). Even Hollywood director Steven Spielberg seems to always wear baseball caps when directing a new blockbuster. (Can anyone imagine Alfred Hitchcock or Cecil B. DeMille wearing such a cap while working?)
But I think there’s a larger theme at play here.
American culture has dominated the world for about the last sixty-five years. The Unites States has, during its relatively short history, given the world many wonderful things of value (electricity, automobiles, air travel, classic Hollywood films, jazz, great literature, and many other gifts). But the U.S. has also exported a lot of garbage to the unsuspecting outside world -- junk food; horrid TV programs; hip-hop music and, uh, the ‘fashion’ of baseball caps, among numerous other atrocities.
I’m all in favor of globalization if it serves to uplift the economic status of poor people around the world; but I strongly object to it if it destroys regional culture (which, yes, includes clothing). Once the precious accoutrements of cultural traditions are lost, they vanish forever.
Thus, the wearing of baseball caps is not as trivial a topic as one might think.
On a personal note, perhaps my detestation of baseball caps has to do with the fact that two of the most annoying and irritating public figures in contemporary American pop culture -- Michael Moore and Spike Lee -- invariably sport baseball caps during their (frequent) public appearances. They are both phony multi-millionaires trying to look ‘proletariat’… that is, the baseball caps represent their alleged ‘affinity’ for the common man.
Speaking of Spike Lee, in the early 1990s when he released his epic film “Malcolm X,” Lee (or his business agents) engineered a massive merchandising scheme in which stores were stuffed to the gills with caps bearing the “X” logo.
The market was saturated with these caps and it seemed like everyone wore them -- I suspect many of these folks did not even see the film nor had any clue who Malcolm was.
That bit of movie cross-marketing roughly coincided, or perhaps just followed, what appeared to be a synchronized campaign by Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Basketball Association, and even the National Hockey League to inundate stores with millions of caps bearing team logos. Their huge success likely led corporate and marketing honchos in other industries to similarly produce caps advertising or promoting whatever their enterprises involved.
Clearly, the Nike Corp. played a significant role in this phenomenon, capitalizing on the extraordinary popularity of Michael Jordan to produce tens of millions of caps globally. Indeed, the Nike ‘slash’ design has become as well-known as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s arches as a global brand.
So, why do so many people wear baseball caps now? Is it a kind of proletariat fashion? Is it a statement against the pretensions and snobbery of high fashion?
A friend of mine (who truly cares about such things), said: “I think the proliferation of baseball caps is a symbol of the decline of culture and the destruction of standards in modern society.”
While that may sound unduly harsh and pretentious, my friend is actually a working class proletarian himself as well as a passionate baseball fan – but he too clearly hates the massive popularity of baseball caps.
He goes on: “Baseball caps serve no practical purpose and it certainly doesn’t improve one’s looks,” he declared. “Why do beautiful women wear these caps, covering up their lustrous hair? Why do elderly people wear these caps? It takes away from their dignity.”
My friend actually went so far as to claim that baseball caps are a symptom of modern society’s seemingly permanent deterioration, decay and degradation, which also includes such horrors as obesity. If one goes to a baseball game, what does one see? Acres and acres of overweight men and women guzzling overpriced beer, wolfing down 8-dollar hot dogs (while, of course, wearing baseball caps).
But if you look at photos at crowds attending baseball games in the 1930s and 1940s, what do you notice? Almost everyone is dressed to the nines – men with derbies, suspenders, jackets, suits and ties; women in elegant fineries (even during the 1930s Depression when no one had any money!)
I say we go back to those days again. Please, I beseech you, get rid of those baseball caps – they make you look stupid and tacky… uh, just like Michael Moore and Spike Lee.
On a final note, I recall an episode of ‘The Sopranos’ television show. Tony Soprano and his friend Artie Bucco are seated in an elegant Italian restaurant when they spot a young couple across the room. The young man is wearing a baseball cap – a big no-no in such an establishment. Tony is so outraged by this display of ‘disrespect’ that he stalks over to their table and intimidates the fellow into removing his cap. It wasn’t clear to me if Tony was offended by the fact that the kid was wearing a baseball cap in the restaurant, or that he was sporting any headgear inside.
Nonetheless, I think Tony did the right thing. Yes, I know Tony is an amoral, homicidal gangster -- but he also had some very good values.