Playing ball

The best way to sport a baseball cap

This article is taken from the June 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

When does a platitude become A Thing? Baseball caps have been about in the United States since the 1860s for sporting purposes. During the Seventies, they became available in a one-size-fits-all mode (the “snapback”), allowing them to become popular as a preppy fashion accessory. In the Eighties, they were donned in Blighty as a kind of Americanism along with trainers. Later, in the Nineties/Noughts, one’s father might be given one at a conference, then insist on wearing it to clean the car.

They were spotted during the Normcore phase of 2014. Then, suddenly, in winter 2020’s spring/ summer 2021 collections, they sprung up on catwalks, notably Celine’s (right), the French brand deploying them in almost every look.

Before long, Coach, Courrèges and Kenneth Ize were following suit, and designer brands had welcomed another opportunity to flog an entry-level/relatively accessible ware, albeit said entry-level was around 300 quid.

In fact, baseball caps had been happening again for a while as part of the fetishization of off-duty (Princess) Diana’s blazer, cycling shorts, cap “I’ve just worked out at the Harbour Club, where everyone’s got giardia, and this isn’t cellulite, I sat on a wicker chair” guise. Add a whiff of high net worth Succession-dressing, and the unwashed sloth of lockdown, and Bob’s your baseball trend.

Caps exude the requisite air of urban menace

Anywaaay, I’d acquired some, obv. I acquire everything. However, I was yet to become embroiled in The Thing. It lurked. It took a charity shop, midnight velvet cord, £4.99, Pull & Bear number, sported with an Italian velvet shooting jacket in the perma-sleet of Iceland in August, to succumb; and succumb I did. Said accessory kept my face dry, hair sane, head warm, but, more, it lent an air of raffish discontent to proceedings that was very: “What, another gorge?”

In Paris this Easter, they were being worn drably, quotidianly, with trainers and very little appeal. What I wanted was a Seventies, BCBG take on garçon-style, a tad (very) old Celine/Chloé/Gucci, girls-doing-boys as a way of doing boys, but — you know — fresh.

It took brand ambassador and Squid Games star HoYeon Jung appearing in Louis Vuitton’s spring campaign for me to finally feel it. Captured by Ethan James Green, the actress poses in a series of ultra-polished studio images. Stylist Marie-Amélie Sauvé teamed LV’s Twist bag with a variety of casual rig-outs, including crop tops, jeans, leather jackets — and baseball caps. This is an haute hat, sported with great hair and skin. By Zeus, it’s a winner.

Naturally, I now boast a wardrobe of baseball numbers: my trusty midnight blue; a jet velvet Sandro take; black lace (cat ears tragically removed) by Hayley Menzies; a striped sailor incarnation from a gentlemen’s outfitter in Covent Garden; Mango’s emerald wool; & Other Stories’ dove wool; and a pair of pert-peaked, cotton iterations “for exercise”. Plus a tweed deerstalker for winter and my college cricket cap, natch.

My beloved maintains all manner of elaborate theories regarding the physics of peak and crown, based on a long-lost Mille Miglia commemoration cap that he left on a train when travelling to buy a Welsh lighthouse. (He now dons a substitute by Eighties “casual” kings, Farah, of all things.)

Gap will occasionally boast proportions that conform. My own edicts are less formal. It must look intentional somehow, have something about it, its colour and texture must be of interest. It must bring something to the party, lend a certain USP.

It will be practical, of course. Caps are a great concealer of shit hair, not least the hormonal variety that makes you resemble an extra from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Alternatively, it can be used to style the freshly-washed stuff — see model and “It” girl Camile Rowe’s “Camille Rowe’s Guide to Effortless French Girl Beauty” for Vogue (available on YouTube), where it has enjoyed some 5,288,447 views.

It will shield your face from the elements, as from the general horrors of nature, being the only way goths such as myself can deal with, say, Norfolk’s vast sky. Plus a cap and scarf combine as a security blanket for that moment in the year when one abandons one’s outer layers. Namely, now.

Most importantly, caps exude the requisite air of urban menace: just the right amount of “fuck off”. As with the hoodie, they can be used to avoid eye contact, allowing one to be in the world without engaging with it, thus constituting a 1066 and All That “Good Thing”.

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