When I started this blog a couple of years ago I was happy that I could write about whatever’s on my mind, instead of always having to write boring routine communications, rationales and reports as a principal or superintendent. Well guess what’s on my mind today for some reason? The fact that the sight of a kid, teenager or adult (or tennis player or rap singer) wearing his baseball hat backwards really offends me.
When I see this I first am struck by the total ridiculousness of the act. A baseball hat has a brim, visor, or bill if you wish, in front to shade the eyes from the sun, a bright sky or lights. That’s why baseball players wear them. And that’s the reason, presumably, the rest of us wear them. Then why on earth would any reasonable person turn the hat around, depriving it of its basic purpose. Heavens, the bill is shading the neck and the sun is shining in your eyes. To do this doesn’t make any sense to me.
But wait, there’s more. Not only do I wonder about the sanity and rationality of anyone who does this, but there is a definite quality of insolence, rebellion, rudeness and disrespect conveyed by the act that I find grating and irritating. Also, there is a definite quality of immaturity implied by wearing your baseball hat backwards. All this is much less so when a five or ten year old wears the hat backwards, but still, it conveys a naughtiness, impishness or contrariness even when a child does it. But my God, when older people do it, it really looks stupid and is truly offensive.
The “Urban Dictionary” defines a “backwards hat” in this way:
1. The calling card of a moron
2. Something that white kids took from black kids and ruined
3. How to identify the true loser in the crowd
4. I can easily single out who is the real dope of the group because he has his hat on backwards.
I couldn’t agree more. The story is told of a foreign visitor who kept seeing Americans wearing their baseball caps indoors, and at times backwards. He determined this style indicated a direct correlation to the wearer’s apparent I.Q. Wearing a baseball cap indoors meant an I.Q. was reduced by 50%. Wearing the cap backwards meant an I.Q. was reduced by another 50%… so what’s left? Not much. Again, I agree.
Not long ago this photo of our supposedly dignified and intelligent “policy wonk” House Majority Leader Paul Ryan ran in the media. I didn’t think he was mature before, but take a look at the photo and decide what the backward hat and the biceps show connote. Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri describes him perfectly – “It’s the hat. It’s really the hat that does it….He looks like the 30-year-old actor pretending to be a teenager in your ninth grade health class video about Making Better Choices.”
At the gym where I regularly work out there is a guy, probably in his early 60’s, who occasionally occupies an ellyptical trainer near the one I have selected. This guy, flabby arms and all, is wearing not only a sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off exposing those pitiful arms, but also his baseball hat is turned around backwards. What the hell, I say to myself, who or what is this guy trying to be – a teenager? Or really macho ? Please, come on, grow up!
Early in my life I learned that the only people who wore a baseball hat backwards were baseball catchers, who of course could not properly wear their mask unless the hat was turned around with the bill in back. Later I realized that other professions, like welding, were included – tough to wear that mask too, with the bill frontwards. And I am sure there are other situations when turning the hat around is actually required, like when you are riding in the back of a truck, or on your motorcycle or in a convertible. Hey, I have no problem with this – if you didn’t turn it around it would blow off your head and you would lose it. But when you get off the truck bed, park the motorcycle or put the top back up on your convertible, turn your hat back around.
I am not alone in my opinion. None other than the notable conservative columnist, George Will feels the same way I do. In fact, Mr. Will, with whom I agree on little (but his articles on baseball are wonderful!) wrote a column some years ago condemning this act and labeling it “a bit of contemporary infantilism”. In speculating about where this habit came from, Mr. Will suggested that it began with the J. D. Salinger novel, so popular with teenagers, “Catcher in the Rye”, in which Holden relates in Chapter 3, “…I put on this hat that I’d bought in New York that morning. It was a red hunting hat, with one of those very, very long peaks…..The way I wore it, I swung the old peak way around to the back — very corny, I’ll admit but I liked it that way, I looked good in it that way”. Doubtless, all the teenagers who follow Holden’s example think they look good too. Mr. Will may be right but both Walter Matthau, playing the part of Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple” on Broadway in 1965 and Jack Klugman as Madison in the later TV series both wore a backwards baseball cap and consequently may have helped.
And I have significant additional support in this opposition to backward hats. The inimitable, always irreverent and profane late George Carlin, also shares my opinion.
As I noted in a previous article, I love tennis. Tennis players practice their precise and painstaking skills in the sun or bright lights of a tennis court. Some are purists and play without the benefit of a sun visor or a cap. But many others do indeed ply their craft with their eyes protected by the bill of a sun visor or a hat. But, good heavens, there are those fools, those imbeciles, who insist on playing tennis with a turned-around baseball cap. When I see this, that tennis player is automatically reduced to a teenager, to an unserious player, to someone whose cultivation of a teenage image is more important than being a serious professional. Foremost among these is Leyton Hewitt, the recently retired Australian pro. While I have always loved Hewitt’s enthusiastic and reckless win-at-all-costs game, I have always hated the turned around hat, which to me has always detracted from his game. I am convinced that he would have been a much more successful professional had he chosen to wear his hat the right way and shade his eyes from the sun and lights.
Feeling the way I do about people choosing to wear their hat backwards, you can imagine the shock and the disappointment with which I reacted when I saw a photo of our very own President Barack Obama, the epitome of maturity and dignity, wearing his hat backwards at some kind of vacation cookout with Richard Branson. There he was, my own President, looking like a fool, like a doofus teenager, wearing his hat backwards. That did it for me and I resolved to someday write this article, trying to explain what it means to others when you choose to wear you baseball hat backwards. And so again, for yet another reason, thank you President Obama!