Back in ’92 I’d save up all of my lawn mowing money and I’d blow it on two things: CDs and hats.
While CDs are dead, hats are very much alive… But not the hats I grew up wearing. Those hats, like CDs, are apparently dead hats. Or even worse when it comes to coolness: dad hats.
This is a fact I learned the hard way this weekend when I entered a place I would consider a cornerstone of my early teenage years: Lids.
Along with Tower Records (most certainly dead) and Foot Locker (still alive, nice), Lids formed what back then I may have or may not have called my “Triad of Dopeness”. I have always loathed shopping and I’ve never desired what I would call stuff to wear or collect (necklaces, bracelets, watches, etc…) but the few exceptions for me have been basketball shoes, CDs and baseball hats.
In my peak Triad of Dopeness years you may have found a 14-year-old me rolling into a Lids with a small wad of $5s and $10s and you’d see me cruise around for a half hour, trying on hats from random teams, obscure colleges and even the occasional Nike or Adidas hat.
I usually went for ‘The Game” hats (the brand, not the rapper) and loaded up on schools with names or nicknames that I thought were hilarious at 14 (I’m looking at you South Carolina and Ball State [also still hilarious]), or that had initials that looked inappropriate or funny (FU for Fairfield University was a classic).
While all the hats that I loved certainly needed some breaking in once I bought them (a run through the washing machine, a few times wearing it in the shower, etc…) the brim of these hats typically already had a base curvature that I only needed to refine.
CUT TO: 2019
Following a kid’s birthday party at a mall, I spotted a Lids on the way out and even though it’s probably been ten years since I entered one (I buy most of my hats online from the team stores now and I avoid malls as much as humanly possible) I got that same sense of anticipation (dopeness) I used to get when I saw the store logo decades ago.
This time, I rolled into the store with my 5-year-old instead of wads of $5s. I saw one small section with hats that resembled the hats I grew up loving, but the vast majority of the store was filled with hats that have billboard-sized team names and logos above bills that looks like they were flattened by steamrollers.
In short, the hats were ludicrous.
And just so you know, when it comes to how I believe a hat should look on a human, I never view the hat through the lens of how it fits on my own head. On that front, I do my best…
No, I always try to picture hats on the head of the man who wore baseball hats cooler than any other human on the planet:
Late 90s, Rock ‘N Jock, King of Baseball, Ken Griffey Jr.
I mean, look at that guy. Doesn’t get doper, in my opinion.
…But back to the Lids in 2019…
After noticing that I wasn’t finding what I was looking for, a pleasant 17-year-old asked if I needed help.
And this exchange happened:
Teen: Need help?
Me: Yeah, do you have any fitted hats that don’t have flat brims?
Teen: Oh, you mean dad hats?
And then I walked out of Lids feeling like Robin Williams did after his first meeting with Will in Good Will Hunting.
“You took one look at my painting and you tore my life apart.”
Only, it wasn’t a painting, it was a hat. And it wasn’t really my life, it was my coolness.
I thought about it for a while, irritated and annoyed.
How had one of the most awesome symbols of my youth been slapped with a ‘dad label’, like those lame New Balance shoes or a belt clip for my cell phone?
And then it hit me, just like it hit Robin Williams.
That kid in the store never saw Griffey play. Never watched him smile and crank 500-foot bombs. He never saw him flip his hat backwards in batting practice and with that perfect swing pound home run after home run.
No, that teen doesn’t know a single thing about how a hat should look. He’s just a clueless kid.
So I went online, ordered the hat that I wanted, and I haven’t thought about him since.