July 18, 2013

59Fifty Baseball Caps? Yes.

59Fifty refers to the flagship baseball cap model by the company New Era. 59Fifty caps are old school in that they are fitted according to skull size. New Era has been making caps since 1920, and the 59Fifty model has been around for almost 60 years. The 59Fifty is the official on-field baseball cap worn by Major League Baseball players (it is also the official sideline cap worn by NFL players).

Wait, there is a backstory here. First, I am almost positive that I owned a 59Fifty cap many years ago without actually realizing it at the time. I recall owning a fitted cap back in the day - size 7 1/8 - but don't remember the design, team, or style. I assume that it was a New Era 59Fifty, which has been the most popular fitted cap for ages.

More backstory: I used to have a collection of NBA team caps, but they were not made by New Era. They were adjustable caps (aka "snapback" caps), and I had one for every team. I rarely wore those hats, and eventually got rid of them. So, caps and I have a little bit of history . . . but I've never really been interested in 59Fifty caps per se. Until recently. Seriously, there is a lot to learn about these caps! This is fascinating stuff, and could be the beginning of a new acquisition disorder around these parts.

OK, so the frontstory goes like this: I was at the mall recently and saw a kiosk selling a bunch of caps. At the time, I was looking for a Lakers cap (even though the NBA season is over and the Lakers suck these days). I wasn't looking for a 59Fifty cap in particular, I just wanted anything that fit. I tried on a few and ultimately settled on this one:

The salesperson (she was very persuasive) convinced me to buy a cap for my son, too. He wanted a Detroit Tigers cap and we found one that fit him fairly well. We didn't know it at the time of acquisition, but the Tigers cap is an authentic and official on-field 59Fifty cap:

The return policy of the kiosk said something like: "OK to exchange within a week, but don't wear it, don't bend the bill, and keep it in as-new condition. In fact, don't even look at it." So I told my son to keep the stickers on his cap until he was certain that it fit well and he wanted it as a keeper. At this point, the sight of my kid rockin' his new cap with the stickers on them made me wonder why many people (young and old) wear baseball caps without removing the tags and stickers. I was also curious about the "flat bill" phenomena (see golfer Rickie Fowler) that has really caught on.

It didn't take much online research for me to realize that there is a baseball cap subculture (which includes baseball fans, hat collectors, 59Fifty collectors, etc.). I found a New Era fan forum, and several baseball cap blogs such as this one. I now know that there are certain techniques and protocols related to breaking in a cap, shrinking a cap, stretching a cap that is too snug, altering the shape of the crown, restoring the shape of a cap, brushing the silky smooth fabric of a cap, storing caps, etc. I've also seen videos, forum posts, and articles related to Sticker Syndrome and, to be honest, it all seems quite silly to me. The only rationale that makes a little sense to me is this one: "leave the hologram sticker under the bill of the cap because it proves authenticity if you are ever questioned by Squad 59Fifty of the New Era Police Department."

Authentic 59Fifty!
You can see a portion of the hologram sticker on the bill of my son's Detroit Tigers cap above. He removed it (along with all of the other stickers) after about a week. As the above picture shows, an authentic 59Fifty cap includes a lot of branding and labels on the inside; consequently, stickers are not really necessary as evidence of authenticity. Personally, I don't really care if a person wants to keep one or more stickers or tags on his/her cap. It's a free country, and it's not my cap, so why should it matter?

It matters because it's funny, that's why. Just ask Key & Peele: Dueling Hats (if that link is dead, Google it!).

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