Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cap-Tivated: Baseball Inspires Major-League Fashion Trend

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Cap-Tivated: Baseball Inspires Major-League Fashion Trend

Article excerpt

JOHN SWEDE THINKS his love of baseball caps began when he was a Little Leaguer in the early '50s. At 9 years old, he and his neighborhood knothole gang would catch the trolley to nearby Gilmore Field, where the Hollywood Stars played the great American pastime. Sometimes, his uncle would drive him into Los Angeles to see the Angels play Pacific Coast League rivals. Always, they wore hats that back then meant but one thing - baseball.

"Every Saturday and Sunday, we'd be out there. Hot dogs were 20 cents," says Swede, a California wedding and portrait photographer (he photographed O.J. and Nicole Simpson's wedding). "The baseball cap thing started with that, and it has just gone on."

To display his collection of more than 400 baseball caps, Swede built double and triple shelving around his two-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica.

"I'm running out of room," says Swede, 53. The game, literally, has gone to his head.

Once a nation bent on fedoras, America now wears a baseball cap. No other hat approaches its popularity. If you doubt it, look around shopping malls, college campuses, supermarkets. For boys, the cap of DiMaggio and Mantle has long been de rigueur. Nowadays, college kids wear them, backward and frontward; and so do grown men.

Sure, many caps now forgo the traditional Yankee emblem or Orioles' bird for the Redskins or Panthers logos. They may be designer caps reading "Bermuda" or "Pearl Jam" or "X." But in shape and style, they're baseball caps.

"In the last seven years or so, licensed (sports) products as a whole started taking off, and baseball caps became a fashion statement," explains Ron Meshil, chief operating officer of Manny's Baseball Land in Palm City, Fla. "The league realized there was a profit to be made here," says Meshil.

Manny's recently branched into the catalog sports apparel business. Now, says Meshil, its annual baseball cap sales are in solid six figures.

"We've seen it grow from where there were really very few places selling them to where there are several fan shops in every mall," he says of the cap phenomenon. …

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