What is a Snapback Baseball Cap?

We've all heard of a baseball cap - the classic all-American accessory. But what exactly is a snapback? In this article, we'll answer just that.

Baseball caps are a simple style of hat that transcend class, gender and fashion trends the world over. And it's likely they will stay this way for a long time.

A Brief History of the Snapback Cap

Let's briefly explore the history of the snapback. They can be first traced back to the mid-1800s, when the Brooklyn Excelsiors baseball team began to sport them off the field. They were in existence throughout the 1800s, and in the 1940s, the designs of these caps become rather standardised among manufacturers. A natural latex rubber was used as stiffening, and the caps tended to be one-size-fits-all, with limited colour variety. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that this trend gained speed. Hip hop artists and rappers such as Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are prime examples of snapback wearers. Sports players outside of the baseball field continued to wear the snapback as part of their casual outfits, including the legendary Michael Jordon. In this sports superstar’s case, he showed the power of celebrity endorsement, while also reminding us of the potential promotional value of the baseball cap: Having just sunk a now famous, last-second, game-winning shot against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first round of the 1989 NBA finals, he wore a Gatorade-branded cap in the post-game interview. Basking in MJ’s aura, the drinks brand gained millions of dollars’ worth of incredible exposure to an aspirational audience that wanted to “be like Mike”.

As well as being convenient and fashionable, brands also picked up on the snapback trend fairly quickly. It became a great marketing tool, leading to a surge of merchandise and promotions and baseball caps produced on a mass scale. As we entered the 2000s, they briefly dipped out of fashion. Not for long, however. In 2011, music artists Tyga and Chris Brown released their viral video 'Snapbacks Back', which showed them physically taking out snapbacks from the back of their wardrobes. It seems as if many listeners did the same, as before we knew it, snapbacks were gaining popularity once again.

Nowadays, they've transcended into a new phase altogether - beyond just the jocks and the rappers. Pop artists such as Beyoncé and Rihanna are still rocking these caps, keeping them relevant and promoting them to the younger generations. The snapback baseball hat knows no limits. It's universally popular and can be worn with many outfits, either to dress them down or add a slight modern edge. Beyond Dre’s Compton suburbs you can even find them on the Paris catwalks. They're that versatile!

 

The Structure of a Baseball Cap

Let’s run through the standard structure of a baseball cap. The main body is composed of six triangular panels, each panel's width being roughly 10cm and their length 15cm. This main section is called the crown, and it takes the recognizable shape of a hemisphere. Each panel features an eyelet, (a small circular opening in the fabric), providing much-needed ventilation as they're able to allow air to flow in and out. The use of mesh for both the side and back panels also increases its breathability.

Then, we have the visor - (other words of use include peak, brim or bill. Whatever you want to call it.) Its purpose is the same for every hat, however, and it serves to be a good protector from the sunshine. On snapback baseball caps, this visor tends to be relatively flat, although there's an endless list of possibilities when it comes to curvature, color and style of brim.

The buckram is a key component of any baseball cap. It's the stiff lining inside the front panels, allowing the cap to take its shape. It adds structure and height, giving the baseball cap that signature form. You may also recognize this classic accessory by its squatchee. Yes, you read that word right. This is the little button found on top of the hat, meeting all six panels mentioned above.

Now, let's talk about the convenient features. Baseball caps have sweatbands, too, which are bands of cloth that sit at the base of the cap and travel around the whole circumference. As its name suggests, they absorb the sweat and ensure a more comfortable wear. Seam tape, although a seemingly 'boring' component, can be an important part of the cap's appearance. The stitching of panels can occasionally look unsightly, especially when exposed. Seam tape covers this up, giving a smoother, sharp look.

 

The Snapback

Let's introduce you to the part you've all been waiting for - the snapback. The term 'snapback' actually refers to the closure mechanism found at the back of the cap. And, funnily enough, snapback caps are simply baseball caps with this closure. These nifty tools allow you to adjust the cap to the correct size and shape, allowing a perfect fit. There tends to be a little half-moon-shaped gap above the two plastic strips, which, in order to be shut, simply need to be snapped together. It's as simple as that!

There'll be a single strap called a connector - this has raised nodules on it and will lie behind a second strap with holes. When snapped together, they'll align and connect, securing the straps in place. Simply reverse this action to adjust the placement. Most of the snapback closures found in baseball caps are made from polyester plastic, and can be made into a wide variety of colors. On the whole, though, their style tends to be quite low-key and basic, so as not to take away the attention from the main structure of the hat. In terms of design, snapback baseball caps typically feature crowns made in simple colors, such as black, navy and gray. Embroidered artwork is most likely found on the front of the cap only, though the artwork tends to be bigger and bolder than with other styles of cap.

 

Summary

Snapbacks are baseball caps that, like standard caps, have a crown, eyelets and (often) a flat visor. The 'snapback' refers to the actual closure of the cap, which tends to be two plastic strips that interlock and can adjust the fit and size of the cap. They've been around for years and years, originally made popular by the sporting stars on the sidelines. Then, hip hop artists adopted them and swept them towards the younger generations. The design and pattern of snapbacks are customizable and versatile, although they're often basic and simple. With an accessory with as much history and symbolism as the snapback, sometimes, simplicity is key.