These baseball hats are awesome. So awesome that, like a weird kid with a bug collection, I feel compelled to share them with you.
And while I never use the word "dope" in casual conversation—my prevailing awkwardness won't allow it—I'll make an exception in this case.
Because I know of no better way to describe the following headpieces.
They are beyond "pretty" or "cool" or "interesting." They demand that monosyllabic affirmation: "dope."
Even as the reasons for their dopeness vary—from classic looks to the avant garde—"dope" seems the only word both young and flexible to capture their appeal.
If "dope" is the word that gets the job done, then I intend to use it.
Note: All photos from lids.com.
I admit, this isn't an all-purpose wear and, in the wrong context, could commit fashion atrocities. On a baseball field, for instance, I imagine it looks awful.
But at the right event, on the right hat wearer, the hipster sensibility strikes a nice tone.
Which is to say, don't take this hat too seriously. It's a playful attention-grabber set against the rigidity of traditional designs.
Lots of minor league hats go for a similar vibe and fall short. The Asheville Tourists went all-in on the goofy and pulled it off.
I like that the Reds play up their storied past, but I don't always like the execution. Some of Cincinnati's allusions to the Deadball Era—like their mustachioed take on Mr. Met*—come across as clownish and insincere.
If you're going to go historical, avoid the caricatures and go straight for the old-school script. Like the above hat, which brings us back to the turn of the century without invoking a barbershop quartet.
*Astute reader Matthew points out that Mr. Red predates Mr. Met, and therefore it's more apt to call him a mustachioed take on Mr. Red. Thanks for the edit, Matthew.
It's easy to get lost in the world of minor league hats.
The combination of under-exposure and rampant experimentation often leads to the wrong kind of impulse buys.
Ah, but it looked so cool and different yesterday.
The Louisville Bats, however, dance that line between boldness and staying power. The color scheme is daring, but the design is contained and fits the aesthetic.
The logo doesn't really mean anything, but that's the point of minor league fare. It looks cool, starts conversations and, by standing for nothing, avoids the slippery slope of team loyalties.
The name comes from Spanish, the land comes from Mexico and the food would be 10 times worse if it weren't for the humble burrito.
Yes, Los Angeles owes a lot to its Latin roots.
The integration of Mexico's national colors into the iconic Dodgers logo lend a warm, cross-cultural touch to this classic cap.
Though I will admit, reconciling Angelino pride with the Dodgers is difficult when you consider that the city displaced hundreds of Latino families to build the franchise's first and only stadium.
But why let a little truth get in the way of some flag waving?
This is one of the few too-odd-to-ignore designs that works for me.
I like that it turns a design that took itself way to seriously, with an overabundance of literal interpretation, into a black-light rave.
The Blue Jay, baseball, maple leaf combo tried so hard to stay safe, and this color scheme transforms those conservative intentions into a bizarre party space. (Think Janet Reno dance party of hats.)
It's out there, but I want to be out there with it.
I love this hat in part because I hate the Nationals' standard, curly "W."
The curly "W" tries too hard—it wiggles and swerves at every conceivable juncture, adding varnish atop varnish until substance is an afterthought.
Not this "W."
This "W" says, "Hey, I'm the letter 'W.' I start words like 'water,' 'whistle' and, most importantly, 'Washington.' Don't like me? Whatever. I'm a freaking letter. I'm not going to change for you."
Then he jumps up, smacks you in the face and walks off to make eyes at the "J."
Because letters are mad flirtatious.
With this entry, the Reno Aces give us the minor leagues' most believable take on a big league design.
Most minor league designs wouldn't pass muster on the big stage.
They're too desperate, kitschy, intentional.
But typically-gaudy Reno doesn't fall in that trap. The small diamond on the "A" is a tasteful allusion to the nickname without overwhelming the sleek font.
Ken Griffey Jr. re-made the Mariners in his image during the 1990s, imbuing the franchise and its logo with a coolness that, for this child of the Clinton years, will never die.
I also give major props to the M's for making the nautical colors work. We've seen the Marlins and Rays walk down that road before to disastrous effect.
Teal can be an unforgiving mistress, but Seattle made her purr.
But I love the daring simplicity of this logo. What do the Milwaukee Brewers do? Play baseball. What best represents baseball? A ball in a glove.
The fact that they embedded the Milwaukee "M" into that design only heightens its appeal.
Long overshadowed by his anatomically correct counterpart, The Bird is finally back where he belongs in Baltimore.
The fat-headed fowl that presided over the golden age of Orioles baseball in the 1970s and 80s will once again grace the team's everyday garb in 2012.
In the above iteration, his likeness gets the Xerox treatment. The result is cheerful take on the oftentimes over-dramatic sub-genre of black and white caps.
Because The Bird is all about fun—mockery, really—and in this setting he gets to subvert the whole two-tone tableau without sabotaging the aesthetic.
I love Oakland's font but always found the green-yellow color scheme a bit clunky. It's hard to match an outfit with two colors so rarely seen together.
Enter the black background, which neutralizes those tones and puts the green and yellow into a supporting role. They're better suited for that function, and they help the elegant font pop off.
I'm not a fan of the black-on-black trend, but in this case it has a purpose.
When this design was active, its appeal got lost in a hideous color scheme. Try as one might, it was hard to see past competing swatches of Big-Bird yellow and Cookie-Monster blue.
Just pick a damn primary color.
The black eliminates all that noise and brings the focus back to the trident, where it should have been all along. If there's a lesson in all that it's this: Trust the trident. Love the trident. Be the trident.
Five years ago I wouldn't have put the Phillies on this list, but the team's rising fortunes have given the brand an added boost.
The Phillies name connotes a lot of good things these days—championships, aces, sellouts—and the "P" is along for the ride.
Aesthetically, what I like most about the design is its proportion. The "P" is front and center, but it doesn't dominate the space. The font has some swerve, but it isn't done up with every flourish imaginable.
Just a good-looking ball cap.
In spite of its unremarkable design, the Boston Red Sox fit on this list because of what their big, red "B" represents.
The "B" is New England. It unites an entire part of the country in a way no other team's logo does.
It's dope because it's undeniable—so clearly at the forefront of a powerful regional identity.
Boring cap, but an important symbol all the same.
Overlooked in the design department because they're on-field product reeks, the Kansas City Royals have one of the best logos in baseball.
It's seamless the way the "K" runs into the "C," even though, set apart, you would think those letters an odd match.
This alternate color scheme projects a seriousness befitting such a crisp design. The black in particular makes the "KC" pop.
Add some royal blue trimming on the bill, and we have the touch of color this look needs to finish smooth.
Going lower case is risky, but the California Angels made it look effortless.
They let the little "a" speak for himself—with a small assist from the halo—and the result feels avant garde without screaming for attention.
Concept, good. Execution, good. Hat, good.
Another logo marginalized by the team's poor performance, Pittsburgh's hat doesn't get nearly the play it deserves.
That's a classy logo, people—bold, classic and without distraction.
I also dig the citywide, black-and-yellow color scheme. What other city projects that sense of unity? More important, where else can you buy two tones of clothing and wear them together in any season?
Well done, Pittsburgh.
Love that orange star.
It takes Texas pride and, through the lens of the Lonestar, re-purposes it as Houston pride.
It also provides an ideal canvas for the crisp, white "H" at the center of our vantage point.
The inversion of this color scheme is a bit too orange for my taste. I prefer just a splash on the star, which plays well against a navy backdrop.
I'm a sucker for maps, and the Angels scratched my itch with this offering.
I'd prefer a different color scheme, and have some concerns with the phallic imagery, but my affinity for geography outweighs those concerns.
And I love that this hat stands out by concept and not sheer lunacy. Take a step back and the end product is as clean as they come.
No clutter, just a shift in thinking.
This cap solves a long-standing internal conflict.
Problem solved. The "storm cap" puts the curly "M" on a muted gray canvass and gives it just enough color to keep the stylish design at the forefront.
Always and forever the most bad-ass cap in baseball, the Chicago White Sox draw a stark comparison to the crosstown Cubbies.
And I love it.
The North Siders rep cuddly baby bears in a patriotic color scheme.
The South Side keeps it simple: black and white.
It's so unapologetic, simple and convincing, that you almost forget it says "Sox." That, friends, is a hat.
I'm not always a fan of the old English script, but the Tigers got it right.
And Detroit gets extra points for sticking with the design when other teams went trendy.
Though that same inflexibility killed the auto industry, loyalty gets positive marks in the logo game.
The Atlanta Braves get it.
Simple, elegant, flexible—this design does just as well in a rap video as it does at a beer league softball game.
But it does all that without boring us. It isn't blocky or stodgy or patrician.
It is, in a word, smooth—one of the few hats that fits on the field and off it.
The gold standard in throwback head gear has no rivals.
It's hard to separate the hat's appeal from the nostalgia it invokes, but there's really no reason to. Brooklyn has a special place in the game's history, bookmarked by the peerless blue of its trademark cap.
I hate the New York Yankees, but even I must admit this is no contest.
The New York Yankees cap doesn't even belong on this list. Comparing this hat to other baseball hats? Please.
This cap belongs on a list with Bugs Bunny, the American flag and other symbols of American empire.
We're talking Mickey Mantle, Jay-Z, Monument Park, the guy who killed Gadhafi and The Great Freaking Bambino. We're talking excellence, excess, tradition, evolution and latter-day religion.
You could tell the story of America through the meeting of "N" and "Y," and, in the process, reveal more about the nation's character than we ever care to know.