Closets brimming with Hermès, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton will always signal a high-fashion pedigree, but lately there’s one piece that’s become even more of a cult status symbol, with an eye-catching subversive twist: the baseball cap.
The accessory is certainly not new, but its presence has widened in the fashion world, and what’s more, more and more hats have acquired an endearing aura of cool that is hard to miss. Celebrities ranging from Emily Ratajkowski to Jennifer Lopez have dived deep into the look. It’s not just your typical New York Yankees cap, nor the decidedly exaggerated luxury versions of designer baseball caps. This particular look is all about merchandising caps from your favorite bookstores, clubs, restaurants, and even events; the kind of caps you can often only buy in person. Think: Amber Waves Farm, E11EVEN, Sunset Tower, and Sky Ting Yoga.
“We see pictures of people in E11EVEN hat everywhere from the Eiffel Tower to the Egyptian pyramids,” says Dennis DeGori, owner of the 24/7 nightclub E11EVEN, which has become famous for its signature hats emblazoned with logos. The brand has launched its merchandising in 2015 and, according to DeGori, sells at least $1,000,000 worth of hats a year, including an exclusive one-of-a-kind 11-carat diamond hat for $50,000.”The hats represent people who know the E11EVEN experience because have been, as well as those who have not been but want to be part of the experience indirectly by wearing the hat,” adds DeGori. “People who love life and live it to the fullest. It is both a mindset and a feeling of pride” .
It’s no coincidence that people gravitate towards baseball caps as identifiers of social standing. Fashion loves the momentum of merchandising and as the community continues to communicate and memeise the everyday (think of Adidas’ many high fashion collaborations, Balenciaga’s Crocs or Vetements’ iconic DHL t-shirts from 2016), it is useful to have a logo or a recognizable symbol that ignites community, but at the same time hints at exclusivity and, in many ways, irony. “Historically, baseball caps were collectibles, a symbol that you had enough free time and money to attend a game,” says the fashion designer Shea Daspin, who herself is very keen on the idea of pairing ultra-glam sequined state hats, or oversized menswear, or both for contrast. “Like all sports, the sense of camaraderie surrounding matching hats is unparalleled. Wherever your hat comes from, whether it’s a bookstore, a restaurant, an independent film center or a designer’s emerging brand, hats also mean support.
Another reason we see fashion’s new status symbol everywhere? Merchandising exploded in popularity even more as businesses like restaurants and cafes launched hats and other collectibles as a way to recoup money lost to the pandemic. People want what they can’t have and many of these hats are limited edition or can only be purchased IRL.
Similarly, as a direct result, fashion brands have also tapped into merchandising baseball caps. Take, for example, Batsheva, who dropped limited-edition baseball caps at her fashion shows, which took place in iconic New York City restaurants, such as Serendipity 3. For her Spring 2023 show, which in September 2022 at Ben’s Delicatessen, partnered with the restaurant to publish a hood with logo. “I wanted to create something small and portable that would suggest the theme of my show, but be wearable and useful in people’s lives,” says designer Batsheva Hay. The word ‘delicatessen’ is so New York, and so evocative of cinema and a historical period. It was a nod to my runway show at Ben’s Deli. I love wearing baseball caps with suits or anything else, so I wanted to customize one.
Immediately following the show, the editors were quick to complement their outfits with the hat. Considering the presentation was so early in the morning — and so deep in the heart of the garment district — it seemed like the perfect kind of disguise to add, especially as the oblivious, ostentatious crowd emerged amid tourists and everyday commuters. It turns out that was precisely the point: “The baseball cap is one of those incredible New York City signifiers, from Larry David to Rihanna, trying to avoid dads,” adds Hay. “I love how protective and private it feels and just, ‘leave me alone.’ They have a neutral quality where you can layer them over any look, which makes them feel very collectable. I also love how they can be commemorative, whether it’s for someone’s Bar Mitzvah, bridal shower, or 50th reunion. I didn’t do any merch for my wedding, but merch always my fashion shows.” Spotting someone else on the street with the same logo merch cap you’re wearing? “It brings an immediate sense of camaraderie and belonging that I think we’ve longed for time,” adds Daspin.
Coming back to that hint of irony, many of the merchandising baseball caps are just that. Take, for example, the Philson caps created in partnership with Ray’s Bar on the Lower East Side. With its camo print and dazzling orange font, it’s exactly the kind of thing hardcore fashion and Y2K culture is mimicking right now (see: Ultra-popular Praying’s camouflage caps loved by celebrities for proof). But because he’s not a traditional designer fashion item, he seems more special, extravagant and strangely exclusive. “They represent utility and utility,” says Alex Carleton, chief creative officer at Filson, when asked about the elite reputation of Filson x Ray hats. Who knew social status and solidarity could be wrapped up in one of the world’s most casual accessories that says so much, with so little effort?
Kristen Bateman is a contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar. Her first fashion article was published in Vogue Italia during her freshman year of high school. Since then, she has intern and contributed to WWD, Glamour, Lucky, i-D, Marie Claire and more. She created and edits the #ChicEats column and deals with fashion and culture for Bazaar. When she’s not writing, she follows the latest collections on the runway, she dyes her hair to match her mood, and practices her Italian lei in hopes of snagging 90 percent off Prada at Tuscan outlets. She loves vintage shopping, sweets and cats.