The baseball cap – an American icon since the days of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth.
But today’s MLB superstars probably aren’t taking the field wearing the same caps you grabbed off the rack at Lids.
While fans rock licensed New Era 59Fiftys and flex for the ‘gram, pro ballplayers enjoy access to cutting-edge caps crafted for performance.
The gap between fan fashion and player function in headwear has never been wider.
How did we get here? From the woolen shells of the 1800s to the moisture-wicking fits of today, the baseball cap has undergone quite an evolution.
So what hats do baseball players wear on their domes? And how do those caps differ from the ones you sport?
Grab some peanuts and read on for the colorful history and future of the baseball cap!
The Early Days: From Straw to Wool
The baseball cap has come a long way from its crude beginnings in the early days of baseball.
Let’s explore the origins of the baseball hat in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
1859 – The First Lid in the Game
The baseball cap traces its origins to the early days of the game in the mid-1800s. In 1859, the first official baseball uniform was introduced by the New York Knickerbockers, including a humble straw hat to shield players’ eyes from the sun.
These rude early lids resembled wider-brimmed straw hats, providing practical sun protection but little stylistic panache.
Can you imagine Mike Trout rocking a floppy straw giant prairie hat while legging out a triple?
1900s – Brim Flattening Hits the Big Leagues
By the early 20th century, straw had been replaced by wool as the hat material of choice. Caps featured rounded crowns and stiff brims, still more functional than flashy.
But in the 1900s, players began flattening the crowns of their caps to create the now-familiar baseball hat style.
Using steam or cardboard reinforcements, the cap’s bill was flattened to better shade players’ eyes from the afternoon ballpark sun.
For the next few decades, the flat-brimmed wool cap would reign over major league noggins.
Simple yet iconic, these lids defined the look of early baseball.
Changing Style and Function
By the 1970s, baseball caps had come a long way from their humble functional beginnings.
The growing popularity of the MLB drove demand for caps as symbols of team affiliation and identity.
And innovations in sportswear manufacturing allowed for new materials, styles, and production methods that transformed the baseball hat.
The 1970s saw caps shift from wool to polyester construction, allowing for the integration of logo designs and team colors.
Bold, graphic caps like the Pittsburgh Pirates’ black and yellow lids became symbols of regional pride.
In the 1980s, fitted caps replaced adjustable ones, letting players sport structured hats sized for better comfort and style.
For fans, fitted caps showed dedication to their team, since fitted caps couldn’t be modified to support other teams.
Advances in sports licensing and merchandising made caps more widely available to the public.
Suddenly, fans could sport the same caps as their favorite players, representing their allegiance.
The baseball cap was now a full-fledged fashion phenomenon.
What They Wear Now: High-Tech Fitted Caps
Today’s MLB players enjoy access to cutting-edge fitted caps made from high-performance fabrics and constructed for maximized moisture management.
Gone are the days of basic wool shells. Now player’s rep hats are engineered for elite athletic demands.
Major athletic brands like New Era, Nike, and Under Armour compete for MLB partnerships, driving innovation in materials and cap construction.
Common fabrics include moisture-wicking polyester blends, spandex for flexible fits, and latex rubber for structured brims.
Caps feature ventilated sweatbands, and embroidered logos, and are available in a range of structured fits.
While old-school flat brims remain popular, curved brims help visibility while pitching and fielding.
Some players even wear vintage-style caps with old-school logos to rep their team’s heritage.
While player caps are made for performance, fan caps priority style. Quality and materials differ, with player caps featuring more performance tech.
But fans can still rep their teams in licensed caps evolved from the classic wool originals.
Conclusion: The Iconic Baseball Cap Endures
The baseball cap has come a long way from its 19th-century origins to the high-tech performance caps of today’s MLB stars.
Yet it remains one of the most iconic items in all of sports.
While materials and construction have evolved dramatically, the spirit of the baseball cap endures. It represents team pride, personalized style, and the rich history of America’s pastime.
For players, the cap is about performance, keeping the sun out of their eyes and sweat from dripping as they field grounders and steal bases.
For fans, it’s about aligning with team identity and traditions, while looking sharp as they root for the home team from the stands.
Whether you’re a Bryce Harper or a Bartolo Colon, a Mike Trout or a youth league MVP, the baseball cap remains an integral part of enjoying and participating in baseball.
So next time you’re at the ballpark, take a moment to appreciate that historic headwear, whether fitted polyester or cardboard-reinforced wool. The baseball cap is here to stay.