Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

An Ode to Baseball Caps

You might not think President Bush, Brittney Spears and Spike Lee have much in common. But they do, as our commentator points out: Just look at their choice in headgear.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

OK. You might not think that President Bush, Britney Spears and Spike Lee have very much in common, but commentator Frank Deford has been studying their choices in head gear.

FRANK DEFORD:

An ode to baseball caps. Oh, baseball cap--I know. I know. Why in the world are you talking about baseball caps at all, let alone in December, when it isn't baseball season? But, you see, that's exactly the point. Baseball caps are now bigger than baseball. Around the world, they now may well even be the most familiar American artifact passing Coca-Cola and blue jeans and bad movies. Think about it. How many baseball caps actually end up on the heads of baseball players? Well, I'd wager that people with fewer baseball caps play baseball than do people in tennis shoes play tennis or people in Polo shirts play polo. Not only that, but baseball caps have risen to pre-eminence at a time when head gear in general has been in decline, the fedora has gone the way of spats. The beret remains the favorite choice of a few noggins, but as sure as English has replaced French as the language of diplomacy so has the baseball caps swamped the beret soul la tet(ph), the final indignity to Gallic pride.

Baseball caps have become so ubiquitous largely because women have taken to them, too. Name another hat that is so unisexual. This is largely because of the most brilliant clothing invention since the zipper, namely the whole in the rear of the baseball cap so that ladies might let their glorious long locks stream through the gap in the cap, absolutely Dr. Seussian. Actually, I'll bet you never thought of this. We shouldn't be surprised that women now wear baseball caps because as millinery experts have divine, the baseball cap in shape and utility is closest to the old-fashioned Victorian sun bonnet. Visualize that now, right? And it also helps the hegemony of baseball caps that they have the adjuster with the little holes in the back. This way, one size fits all. I have a pinhead. I had an old friend with a noggin the size of a watermelon. We called him the head of the school, but the two of us can buy the exact same baseball cap, men's heads, women's heads, big heads, little heads. The baseball cap may be the most universal article of clothing ever designed.

One of the ironic things about baseball caps is that so many people in other sports wear them. Tennis players and golfers wear baseball caps when they're playing tennis and golf. Football quarterbacks put them on as soon as they take off their helmet, so, too, automobile racers. I don't understand, though, why so many people wear baseball caps backwards. This doesn't keep the sun out of your eyes and the gap in the cap looks foolish on your forehead. Of course, a few young knuckleheads even wear baseball caps sort of sideways. Whatever. What you don't see much of anymore is folks who wear their baseball caps way back up on the head. These are the types who tend to scratch their heads. That seems to have mostly gone out. Oh, it'll probably come back in style, though.

Baseball caps have clearly become the prime fashion of the 21st century world.

INSKEEP: The comments of Frank Deford, the senior clothing writer at Sports Illustrated. He joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford