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The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Twin Towers, the hot dog. They all pale in comparison to the iconic symbol that is the beloved Yankee Cap.

The cap has been a staple of New York and New York lovers for a few generations. It will continue to be so until time runs out, or we’re all killed by radiation poisoning, which may be next month or tomorrow with the way things are going. 

Today being opening day at Yankee Stadium, we thought we’d stroll down memory lane and take a look back at baseball’s and New York’s gift to fashion and personal style: the fitted cap. 

The cap got its start in the 19th Century as a sunbonnet. Back then, pale skin was a standard of beauty, so Victorian era women employed the sunbonnet as a sunblock to protect their skin from the sun. The bonnets were made of cloth and had a stiff bill made from straw and a design element that carried over for generations, influencing contemporary fitted cap styles today.

Above: The Brooklyn Exceliors, the amateur and winning baseball team that popularized the baseball cap.

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In regards to baseball, Brooklyn gets a major “Yeah, son” because of the Brooklyn Excelsiors, an amateur baseball team who got their game on in the 1860s. To paraphrase Charlie Sheen, they were “winninnngggg.”

The team toured New York in their cloth caps modeled after the sunbonnet and it came to be known as the ‘Brooklyn style’ cap. It wasn’t universally worn by all baseball teams because there wasn’t a standard: teams and players could choose whatever style cap they wanted, so a variety of styles were seen on the field.

The Brooklyn style cap by 1900, however, was the style that won out over time. It paved the way for fitted caps as we it know them: symbols of the underclass in Britain and a symbol of New York and hip-hop today. 

After the break, a visual history of the fitted cap.

Above is a 19th Century sunbonnet, worn by women who wanted to keep their skin pale and protected from the sun. The sunbonnet is the grandfather of the fitted hats we know and love.

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“Spalding’s Base Ball Guide” for 1888. Prices for caps of the era ranged from a low of 12 to 15 cents for cheap muslin and flannel caps, to $2 for the highest quality flannel.

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This Pittsburg Pirates pillbox hat from 1977 was actually the norm for many early 20th Century baseball teams.

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This fitted hat was worn by golfers at the turn of the 20th Century. It’s made from bamboo.

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A Vintage New Era Fifty Five 50 baseball cap from the 1950s. This style is manufactured by New Era, 53 years after being the sole maker of baseball caps for Major League Baseball.

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Big Daddy Kane is sandwiched between two of his homies in the 1980s. Home boy on the far right is rocking an adjustable Yankee cap with a bent paper bill. 

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A Yankee cap from the early 1980s.

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This is a vintage NY Yankee fitted cap worn by Frank Crosetti, the Yankee short stop.